The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Rifle Association on Wednesday signed an agreement to grow the number of sportsmen through hunter outreach programs. 

The conservation agency, responsible for over 150 million acres of public land in the National Wildlife Refuge System, this week signed a 10-year Memorandum of Understanding with the NRA to assist in the recruitment, education and retaining of hunters. 

"This MOU creates a powerful partnership that leverages the strengths of the Service and NRA,” said USFWS Director Aurelia Skipwith. "It underscores the importance of the contributions hunting, hunters, and the shooting sports make to wildlife and natural resource conservation."

The number of hunters in the country has been on a decline in recent years. A five-year survey by the USFWS reported the number of hunters dropped from 12.5 million in 2006 to 11.4 million in 2016, although the general population rose by more than 30 million in the same period. Nonetheless, these hunters spent over $7 billion on hunting equipment and trip-related expenses, with a large portion going directly to benefit the nation's parks and public lands. R3 planning – recruitment, retention, and reactivation of hunters – has been a driving effort of both conservation and sportsmen groups for years.  

Under the partnership, the two organizations will work together to educate the public on the benefits of the Partners for Fish and Wildlife program, a USFWS effort to preserve and protect wildlife habitat. Meanwhile, the pro-gun group will strive to enhance hunter safety, marksmanship, and shooting safety through its system of free online hunter education programs and its "American Hunter" magazine. 

“Together with the Service, the NRA has worked for decades to ensure as many outdoorsmen and women as possible can safely and responsibly enjoy our hunting heritage,” said Jason Ouimet, executive director of NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action. 

The announcement came on the heels of news last week that the Bureau of Land Management issued recommendations to help expand recreational shooting opportunities on the more than 245 million acres of federal land under its control.

Banner photo: Chris Eger/Guns.com.

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