Feds seek to expand hunting at wildlife refuge

A hunter holds a dead grouse in a file photo. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

Federal officials have released a proposal for new or expanded hunting and fishing at 74 national wildlife refuges, including St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge outside Tallahassee.

The proposal for St. Marks, which covers 68,000 acres in Wakulla, Jefferson and Taylor counties, would expand upland and big game hunting to 6,523 acres. The U.S. Department of the Interior will have to work with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission on the proposed rule change, according to the federal agency.

“These refuges and hatcheries provide incredible opportunities for sportsmen and women and their families across the country to pass on a fishing and hunting heritage to future generations and connect with wildlife,” Interior Secretary David Bernhardt said in a statement Thursday.

The proposal, which also includes 15 national fish hatcheries, covers more than 1.4 million acres across the country. All of the land is managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The St. Marks refuge is the only Florida location on the list. Public comment on the rule changes will be open for 45 days once published in the Federal Register.