The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing providing formal public fishing access to the North Fork of the Gunnison River at the Hotchkiss National Fish Hatchery.

It also is proposing formal hunting and fishing access at the Leadville National Fish Hatchery.

The proposals are part of a Trump administration initiative to provide new or expanded hunting and fishing opportunities across more than 1.4 million acres at 74 national wildlife refuges and 15 national fish hatcheries managed by the Fish and Wildlife Service. Interior Secretary David Bernhardt announced the proposal this week.

"President Trump is committed to expanding public access on public lands, and this proposal is executing on that directive by opening and increasing more access to hunting and fishing by the Fish and Wildlife Service at more stations and across more acres than ever before," Bernhardt said in a news release.

The initiative would formally open lands on 15 national fish hatcheries, including the Hotchkiss and Leadville sites, to hunting or fishing for the first time.

Hunting would be allowed on 382 national wildlife refuges and wetland management districts, five more than now, and fishing would be allowed on 316 refuges and wetland districts, four more than now. Altogether there are 567 national wildlife refuges and 38 wetland management districts.

Federal law allows hunting, fishing, and certain other activities on a refuge when they are compatible with its purpose and mission.

The spring-fed Hotchkiss hatchery, located near the town of Hotchkiss, was established in 1967 under the Colorado River Storage Act and sits on 58 acres, with 24 inside nursery tanks and 40 concrete fish raceways.

A draft plan for the Hotchkiss proposal says the hatchery already offers picnic shelters, wildlife watching and access to the river and a visitor center. But there hasn't been a formal program there to fish public waters, although fishing occurs now on the river adjacent to the hatchery.

The proposal would allow for dawn-to-dusk, year-round access to the river and its rainbow and brown trout via an identified access point west of covered raceways on the west end of the hatchery property. Anglers could fish along the shore bordering the hatchery, and parking would be allowed in the day-use parking area.

Anglers would have to have a state fishing license and abide by Colorado laws, regulations and limits.

The proposals says access points would be designated and posted in a way to prevent trespassing on neighboring private land and protect outside fish raceways from introduction of parasites, disease or aquatic invasive species. No such species are known to be present in the North Fork of the Gunnison.

Public comments on the Hotchkiss proposal are being accepted until June 21. More information, including on how to comment, may be found at fws.gov/Mountain-Prairie/huntfish.php.

The Leadville proposal would let hunters access hatchery lands to hunt waterfowl and small and large game, and provide various forms of angling access. The hatchery property covers more than 3,000 acres.

The nationwide initiative includes a proposal to revise and simplify refuge-specific hunting and fishing regulations to more closely match state regulations while continuing to ensure safe and compatible opportunities, the Interior Department says. Its initiative is in the form of a rule proposal that is subject to a 45-day comment period.

The Fish and Wildlife Service is planning to finalizes the proposed changes in time for the 2019-20 hunting seasons.

The group Backcountry Hunters & Anglers is endorsing the proposal.

"Sportsmen and women have been the primary funders of the national wildlife refuge system since its inception, and we appreciate Secretary Bernhardt's acknowledgement that we should enjoy access commensurate with our dedication to these lands and waters," Land Tawney, the group's president and chief executive officer, said in a news release.

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