Contact: Ellary TuckerWilliams, Rocky Mountain States Senior Coordinator and Internal MARCOMM Liaison
Why it Matters: Our nation’s abundant public lands are a source of pride for all Americans. Unfortunately, despite being owned by the American public as a whole many of those public lands are inaccessible due to the patchwork of public and private land holding patterns. With almost 16 million acres of combined state and federal land inaccessible in the West, lack of public access to public lands is a pervasive issue in need of fixing. In Wyoming, HB 122 takes a proactive approach to addressing this issue head-on.
Public land access issues have been the focal point of many headlines in recent history. One of the most frequently cited barriers to hunting participation trends nationwide, lack of public access to public lands needs fixing. Put into perspective, according to a 2019 OnX published study, there is a total of 6.35 million acres of western state land and 9.52 million acres of western federal land that are entirely landlocked by private lands. With nearly three-quarters of western hunters dependent on public lands for some or all their access and opportunity, it’s clear that the sustainability of our shared outdoor sporting heritage is inextricably linked to public land access and opportunity.
Common in the region, Wyoming has a patchwork of public and private land holdings, some accessible, many not. Wyoming has 4.16 million acres of combined state and federal land that is inaccessible, the highest of all western states. If enacted, House Bill 122– Hunting and Fishing Access Reliable Funding– sponsored by Wyoming Sportsmen’s Caucus Member Representative Cyrus Western, would take a proactive approach in addressing public land access issues in the state.
HB 122 builds on the rich conservation legacy of Wyoming’s outdoor sporting community by providing increased funding to improve wildlife conservation efforts while also expanding public land access and opportunities. With the recent increased interest in our shared outdoor sporting heritage and public lands evidenced during the COVID-19 pandemic, HB 122’s Conservation Stamp fee increase will allow Wyoming’s Game and Fish Commission to rectify access issues prevalent across the state by purchasing properties or entering into easements and other agreements with willing property owners. Not only will this further the goals of programs like Access Yes, but the funds generated by the fee increase could also be leveraged as a state-side match to secure federal funding though the Land and Water Conservation Fund for the acquisition and development of public outdoor recreation areas, thus significantly expanding the overall breadth and impact of the fee increase.
The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation submitted a letter in support of HB 122 and on Friday, April 2, 2021, Governor Gordon enacted HB 122 into law, securing a significant win for Wyoming’s public land users.
Studies conducted at both the state and federal level have found that the number of hunters and trappers have been on a generally declining trend over the past several decades. To increase recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) of hunters and trappers, which initiative do you think would have the greatest impact?