March 2, 2017

Washington: Bill to Increase Access to Private Lands Passes House

On February 27, Washington House Bill 1464, a bill that would encourage private landowners to allow increased access to their lands for hunting and angling, passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 89-7.

HB 1464, which is sponsored by Washington Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus Co-Chair Representative Brian Blake, would “Provide that landowners who enter into a public access agreement with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) are not liable for unintentional injuries to volunteer groups or other users of their land as long as they do not charge a separate access fee.” The bill also clarifies that, for the purpose of receiving immunity against such injuries, “…payments to landowners from state, local, or non-profit organizations must be established under public access agreements with the WDFW.”

By providing immunity against unintentional injuries occurring on private property, more private landowners in Washington state would potentially be incentivized to enter into cooperative agreements with the WDFW to allow increased hunting and angling access to their lands. People who no longer hunt or fish have consistently cited lack of access to places to hunt and fish among the primary reasons for giving up the sport, necessitating the need to explore new options for increasing access to both public and private lands.

Senate Bill 5384, a companion bill to HB 1464 co-sponsored by Washington Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus Co-Chairs Senators Phil Fortunato and Dean Takko, is currently awaiting a second reading in the Senate Rules Committee.

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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