August 1, 2022

How Policies That Threaten Public Land Ownership Harm Both Conservation Efforts and Opportunities for Sportsmen and Women Across the Midwest

Contact: Kent Keene, Assistant Manager, Lower Midwestern States and Agriculture Policy, Robert Matthews, Senior Coordinator, Upper Midwestern States

Why It Matters: For the many sportsmen and women who are not fortunate enough to own property on which they can hunt, public lands often represent the only opportunity to participate in our time-honored outdoor traditions. While attempts to limit the availability of public lands obviously threaten opportunities for these sportsmen and women, many often overlook the additional consequences of such actions. State fish and wildlife agencies manage lands for a variety of a wildlife, efforts that are funded by sportsmen and women through the ASCF. Without adequate public lands, the entire outdoor sporting community and a variety of wildlife will suffer.

Across much of the Midwest, efforts that attempt to curtail the ability of state fish and wildlife agencies to own and manage public lands are becoming increasingly common. These attempts take many forms, from seeking to limit what agencies can pay to acquire land, to establishing outright limits on total land ownership. However, these attempts carry consequences for state fish and wildlife agencies, the wildlife that they seek to manage, and the sportsmen and women who provide the bulk of funding necessary to carry out management actions.

At the foundation of this issue is the delicate balance between maximizing participation and providing quality experiences for sportsmen and women. As anyone who has hunted on public land can attest, crowding can diminish the quality of the hunting experience. Recognizing this, state fish and wildlife agencies do their best to provide adequate space to accommodate as many hunters as possible while maintaining a quality experience for each. Given the importance of the “user pays – public benefits” American System of Conservation Funding, this is a simple case of trying to make supply meet the demand.

Additionally, state managed lands are often the sites of the most extensive wildlife management efforts because they are the lands most closely managed by agency biologists. State agency professionals are the best informed and most equipped to manage and provide quality habitat for both game and non-game species. However, the bulk of funding needed to accomplish and maintain management activities is provided by sportsmen and women.

In essence, public land can provide benefits for both game and nongame species, sportsmen and women, and in many cases the general public through the maintenance of a multitude of ecosystem services. That is why CSF, and our partners work tirelessly to oppose efforts that seek to limit public land ownership. Most land offers received by state agencies come from landowners that purposefully sought opportunities to sell, or in many cases donate, their property for the benefit of not only their fellow sportsmen and women, but for all to enjoy.

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?

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