The Interior Department has put in place the first comprehensive regulation to govern hunting in National Wildlife Refuges.
The lengthy regulation, which went into effect Friday, is an attempt to codify the rules of the 423 refuges instead of leaving them up to the regional offices of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The regulation said that, in general, the federal government will follow state laws on hunting, but it does not allow hunting at refuges that were not previously open to sportsmen. The rules will allow certain kinds of hunting that had been barred before, most notably the hunting of swans in North Dakota.
The Humane Society of America was the most vociferous opponent of the changes. John W. Grandy, its vice president for wildlife and enviroment, contended that the regulation illegally transferred the authority over hunting to the states, violated the National Environmental Policy Act and threatened endangered species.
James F. Gillett, chief of Interior's division of refuge management, rejected those criticisms. He said that since 1960, state hunting regulations have been mimicked by the federal government when possible and that "by doing so, the service does not in any way abrogate its authority for managing refuge lands."