On June 3, Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) Northwest States Senior Manager Zach Widner participated on a panel on public lands recreational access at the Outdoor Writers Association of America (OWAA) Conference in Fort Wayne, Indiana.
Widner covered the importance of the American System of Conservation Funding, a “user pays – public benefits” program that benefits consumptive and non-consumptive users of public lands alike, and the link between loss of access and an associated loss in hunting and angling participation and conservation funding. He also discussed factors impeding access for hunters and anglers, including inaccessible public lands, loss of lands due to growing urbanization and suburbanization in many areas, and issues related to exclusive use leases on state trust lands.
“In order to maintain and enhance access to places to hunt, fish and participate in other outdoor recreation, we should more closely examine the unique approaches that states have taken to facilitate greater opportunities for access and or mitigate loss of access,” said Widner. “There are numerous great examples of sportsmen, legislators, and fish and wildlife agencies working together to develop these programs, which can often be adapted to other states to help address their respective access issues.”
Among the unique federal and state access programs Widner discussed during his presentation were the Federal Lands Transaction Facilitation Act (FLTFA), Wyoming’s Access Yes program, the Montana State Trust Land-Banking Program, and the Pennsylvania Hunter Access Program, among others.
Tim Brass of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers also participated on the panel.
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- Improve hunter and target shooter involvement in regulatory and legislative processes. (11.67%)
- Enact or expand temporary hunter education deferral programs (apprentice license programs, multiyear options, programs for all first-time hunters regardless of age, and programs promoting hunting of multiple game species). (11.67%)
- Offer shooting sports and hunter education as school activities and recreation programs. (65.00%)
- Link existing programming into family-oriented organizations (such as churches and home-school groups) where participants will have the social support to continue. (11.67%)