Every year it seems that hunters across the nation get the same sickening feeling when they arrive at a piece of public hunting land only to find out that it is no longer public. Sound familiar? In June, the U.S. House of Representatives approved the 2013 Interior and Environment Appropriations bill that includes $7.5 million to expand and enhance access for hunting, fishing and recreational shooting on BLM (Bureau of Land Management) lands and the U.S. Forest Service. Organizations such as the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, the National Rifle Association, the Boone and Crockett Club and other have made the securing of this funding a high priority.
The amount of accessible public lands like this seem to decrease every year.
If included in the final appropriations measure, the funding will allow the Forest Service and BLM to acquire rights-of-way and other land interests from willing-seller landowners to open access to existing federal lands for hunting and fishing where it is closed or significantly restricted.
“The biggest challenge facing hunters and shooters is diminishing access to public lands. This important appropriations provision addresses this challenge head-on, and the NSSF is deeply grateful to Appropriations Committee Chairman Harold Rogers and Interior Subcommittee Chairman Mike Simpson for championing this cause,” said Larry Keane, senior vice president and general counsel of NSSF, the trade association for the firearms, ammunition, hunting and shooting sports industry.
Boone and Crockett Club Chairman Bob Model praised Chairman Simpson for “his longstanding and deep commitment to enhancing hunting opportunities on our public lands.”
For the 32 million American hunters, anglers and recreational shooters, federal public lands are increasingly vital to their participation in outdoor sports. Nearly half of all hunters, for example, pursue their passion on public lands. Reduced access is repeatedly cited as the primary reason that hunters, anglers and recreational shooters stop participating in these sports.
A 2004 report to the House Committee on Appropriations concluded that more than 35 million acres of BLM and Forest Service land have inadequate access. Specifically, nearly 2 million acres (or 10 percent) of Forest Service lands in Montana and 8.4 million acres (or 29 percent) of BLM lands in the Montana/Dakotas region were identified as having inadequate access.
Sportsmen and women make important contributions to both wildlife conservation and the nation’s economy. The hunting and shooting sports industry creates 210,000 jobs nationwide, generating an economic benefit of nearly $32 billion annually.
“If ultimately appropriated, this public-access funding will serve as another weapon in our arsenal as we continue to work on behalf of our nation’s hunting and shooting heritage,” said Keane.