Recently, the Trump administration made new legislation to expand hunting and fishing grounds in 77 national wildlife refuges across the country. In the news, you hear about and find many news articles on his impeachment talks as well as talks with the United Nations regarding climate change, however, this new legislation change has been overshadowed.
Trump’s new legislation now permits fishing at 15 national hatcheries, said some 5,000 regulations have been eliminated or simplified. According to The Washington Post, his reasoning for this is to “open public lands to recreation and industry, including oil and gas drilling.” Much of this land being opened up is considered a critical habitat for birds to refuel during their migrations.
Numerous questions have been brought up regarding the potential implications of this change and none appear to be positive.
Mr. Simons, the Science Department Chair here at Shattuck-St. Mary’s has various concerns regarding how these recent changes will affect the natural ecosystem in these areas. He states, “There was a reason why this federal land was set aside in the first place, it was for the conservation of migratory birds, and some of our waterways for fishing.”
In addition to this, there is also a concern that this could lead to overhunting and overfishing. David Schoneman ’21, an avid fisherman himself is also skeptical about the implications of opening up these hatcheries to hunting: “With people hunting in these hatcheries and refuges, I think they need more regulations to protect these animals, so they don’t ruin the fishery or destroy the animal’s life cycle. Overhunting or overfishing in the hatcheries could potentially mess up the eggs which deeply affects the life cycle.”
Not only are environmentalists opposed to this new legislation, but hunters and fishermen as well. “In the 77 restricted areas, they need stricter regulations not looser,” Schoneman says.
Many uncertainties still remain as Mr. Simons attempts to answer these questions: “Is there an imbalance, do we have an overpopulation of some species? I can’t wrap my head around why we would do that. I just question what Trump is doing by expanding or changing these limits, what does the data say to support this?”
Why was this change made? What are the positive environmental outcomes from these new rules? These are the questions that are being raised and neither Schoneman or Mr. Simons can come up with a reasonable answer for this. Time will be the only way to tell if this legislation proves inconsequential or if an unexpected chain of events occurs.