Land Use

New Hunting Plan for Rhode Island’s National Wildlife Refuges Approved

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The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service is planning on opening limited hunting opportunities at the Sachuest Point National Wildlife Refuge in Middletown, R.I., beginning in 2022 or 2023. (ecoRI News)

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has released a final hunting and fishing plan for Rhode Island’s five national wildlife refuges. At two of the refuges, hunting will be allowed for the first time. At the other three, hunting opportunities have been expanded.

A draft plan was issued in the spring, and during the 85-day public comment period, 1,641 comments and two petitions were received from the public, according to the federal agency. Fish & Wildlife Service officials said many of the comments reflected an opposition to hunting and fishing in general and in particular on refuge lands.

After reviewing the public comments, the agency changed some things from the draft plan.

Here is a look at the final hunting and fishing plan for the five refuges (click the link to see the detailed plan for each refuge and accompanying maps):

Block Island (133 acres): Existing hunting activities, which have been ongoing for many years, will continue and expand. The season dates will reflect a ban on weekend hunting, which the town of New Shoreham desired. The agency said it will continue to encourage hunters to register with the police chief when arriving.

John H. Chafee (at Pettaquamscutt Cove, divided between the towns of South Kingstown and Narragansett, 563 aces): Beginning this year, about 547 acres — less safety setbacks — will be open to hunting of migratory birds (geese, ducks, coot, and mergansers), white-tailed deer, wild turkey, coyote, and fox, with some season and weapon restrictions. Saltwater fishing will be open along 1,600 feet of shoreline on the north bank of the Narrow River near Sprague Bridge.

Currently, there are no hunting or fishing opportunities offered at the refuge.

Commenters expressed concern with hunting in the Mumford Unit, near an elementary school and the William C. O’Neill Bike Path. The agency has removed this unit from the hunting plan. No hunting will be allowed in this area.

Deer hunting within the town of Narragansett will be limited to archery only, rather than allowing both firearms and archery. Waterfowl hunting and fishing on the Narrow River will be allowed as originally proposed.

The agency has dropped the proposal to create a parking lot off Crest Avenue, and will pursue other access means in the future.

Ninigret (Charlestown, 883 acres): Existing hunting activities including mentored deer hunts for youth and disabled veterans will continue and expand. The abundant deer population is exerting high pressure on native vegetation and allowing non-native species a chance to gain foothold, according to the agency. Officials said controlling the deer population will help the overall health of refuge’s natural systems.

Sachuest Point (Middletown, 242 acres): No firearms will be allowed, and there will be no general hunting season open to the public. During the short — three- to five-day — special mentored hunts for deer, fox, and coyote, only archery will be allowed. The hunting area also has been reduced to exclude all areas near the town beaches, campground, and the salt marsh. These mentored hunts will not occur every year. These hunts are expected to begin in 2022 or 2023.

“Yes, we did hear the many people who were not in favor of allowing this use at Sachuest Point,” the agency said. “These types of mentored hunts are very short term, provide people the chance to engage in the outdoors in a way that they choose to, and gives them an opportunity which they might not otherwise have without a special program like this.”

The agency noted that the hunting opportunities provided at Ninigret for youth and their families and for disabled veterans are popular. Officials said they are offering the same mentored hunts at Sachuest Point because the refuge’s “wide and gentle trail systems allow better access for those who may be physically challenged, the openness of the terrain, and the opportunity to engage people from a wider array of communities.”

Sachuest Point, which has the most visitors of Rhode Island’s five refuges, with about 325,000 visitors annually, will be closed during these special hunts.

Currently, there are no hunting opportunities offered at the refuge. Anglers can saltwater fish from designated refuge shorelines, with the exception of Sachuest Beach, which is closed between April 1 and Sept. 15 to protect nesting shorebirds. No fishing is allowed in the Maidford salt marsh.

Trustom Pond (South Kingstown, 777 acres): No hunting will be allowed on the water body itself. Waterfowl hunting will only be allowed where it always has been — on field 1, which lies east of the main refuge land base. Archery hunting for deer, wild turkey, fox, and coyote will be allowed, but limited by the number of permits granted. All archers must carry a state hunting license — which requires a hunter education course — and must show proficiency in the use of archery equipment. Hunting opportunities are being expanded, but no hunting will be allowed within 200 feet of a dwelling or within 100 feet of a public trail.

“We are confident that this activity can be accommodated safely and with minimal conflicts with other users,” according to the agency.

The federal agency noted that hunting and fishing occur on dozens of national wildlife refuges. The legislation that guides how national wildlife refuges are managed requires the agency to consider allowing wildlife observation, hunting, fishing, photography, environmental education, and interpretation and directs it to promote these activities when compatible with refuge purposes. None of these uses have a priority over another, according to agency officials.

“Your opportunity to enjoy seeing deer, hear the gobble of a wild turkey, capture that great photograph, and experience all of the other wildlife species found on national wildlife refuges will continue,” according the Fish & Wildlife Service. “The hunting program isn’t going to harm the overall population of any wildlife species on the refuges. It would not be allowed if it did. Our plan is about sharing these lands with others, even though some may not agree with how others choose to enjoy the natural environment. These lands are for every citizen’s use, for all Americans, not just a few.”

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  1. Along with the final plan that you have linked to, everyone should also read Appendix E that summarizes the public comments.
    (https://www.fws.gov/uploadedFiles/Region_5/NWRS/North_Zone/Rhode_Island_Complex/Appendix_E_RhodeIslandNWRC_RI_HuntFishRES_Final_2020(1).pdf)
    A great insight into true government bull crap. Just these figures tell it all:
    “Many commenters supported expanding hunting (116 commenters)”
    “Many commenters expressed general opposition to any hunting (1465 commenters)”
    Without knowing how the other 60 respondents of the total 1641 came in on the support/oppose vote, we can say that roughly 85% were opposed to hunting on the refuges. Now, if there was a good scientifically-based reason why hunting of any species should take place, there might be some basis for ignoring the will of the people. But, the real reason is expressed in this comment and answer:
    “Several commenters (46) expressed that a professional cull will be more appropriate than a hunting program on the refuge. Some commenters mention a cull would be more cost effective.
    Response: The funding and staffing requirements of the proposed hunt are outlined in the plan. Comparatively, use of a professional to cull the herd on a long-term basis would be prohibitively expensive, and would not provide the public with the recreational opportunity.”

    There is no science, no management goal. The only reason is to provide a public recreational opportunity. What portion of the public? According to figures collected by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the number of hunting licenses sold in RI last year was less than 8000 (roughly 0.2% of the population), the lowest it has been since records have been kept since the 1950s. As recreational hunting continues to decline, where is the “need” for providing more opportunities to hunt? Rhode Island is a highly urbanized state with a sizeable portion of the population that is just not interested in hunting, but they are interested in using the refuges as a place to escape.

    All you need to know in understanding why hunting is being expanded in many NWRs around the country is that it was announced and promoted by the Trump administration.

  2. underlying this bad decision is the monstrous Trump regime and its war against wildlife. In this case pandering to those who want to kill wild animals. In other cases they pander to trophy hunters. In others, to development interests who want to eliminate wildlife and/or forget about the endangered species law. Another case is weakening the migratory bird law so as to make it easier to kill birds. In other cases, its the cancellation of national monuments. If Trump gets to remain in office, its all over for the fight against massive extinctions

  3. Disappointing to see this expansion of hunting. It is an antiquated unnecessary violent activity. There is no sportsmanship in any of this. So what does animal refuge even mean? Nothing.

  4. What financial contributions have any of those commenting provided to the USF&WS, and by what means? There seems to be a lot more "users" of the Refuge System that are critical of the decisions allowing hunting while contributing little or nothing to sustain their personal "park". While I will never hunt in these refuges, anyone that denies the harm caused by white-tailed deer to these habitats is misguided and/or ignorant (at a minimum).

  5. some people have no knowledge or respect for the hunting conservation ethic, you see the harvesting of animals as the only aspect of hunting, you are ignorant and sad, how much wildlife habitat have you enhanced in your life? how much time and money have you donated to your local land trust, neighbors, NRDC etc. etc. so please dont group hunting as antiquated ? no sportmanship? jim archery is an olympic sport, this is all coming form a life long democrat, society gets know where from stereotyping, we have immigrants from south east asia in rhode island that love archery hunting, i meet some a few years back. you dont have to like hunting, just understand the hunting paradigm, god bless

  6. Ok, I understand that hunting is a necessary evil for controlling populations of deer and Canada geese. And hunting does provide food for some families. But if hunters couldn’t get access to public land to kill things, I doubt very much they would be donating to conservation groups (i.e., is being required to purchase a hunting license considered "donating?"). If hunting is a conservation activity, how do you explain clubs, such as The Preserve in Richmond, stocking pheasants for the sole purpose of killing them (they also tried to stock wild boar, but I don’t think that one went over very well, considering how many of their pheasant have escaped and are hit by cars on Rte. 138). In a small, highly populated state like RI, is it inevitable that some unsuspecting hiker, dog walker, etc. will get shot because they were not savvy enough to know when it’s hunting season and/or dress up in florescent orange? Do archers use live animal targets when competing in the Olympics? Whether it’s elephants, baboons or fox, I will never understand the hunter’s blood lust.

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