Contact: Bob Matthews, Senior Coordinator Upper Midwestern States
Why It Matters: Access to public land is coveted by American hunters and anglers. Under the Public Trust Doctrine, federal and state governments alike hold natural resources, such as fish and wildlife, in trust for the use and enjoyment of the public, and public lands provide great opportunities to participate in our time-honored outdoor traditions. Most Midwestern states provide a constitutional right to hunt and fish, and Midwesterners have exercised that right within National Forests and Grasslands for more than a century. Sportsmen and women should take this week to reflect on the resources and opportunities that these forests have to offer.
National Forests and Grasslands provide sportsmen and women with miles of abundant rivers and lakes to fish, as well as vast, pristine landscapes on which we can hunt, trap, or recreationally shoot. Since 1905, when legendary sportsman and conservationist Theodore Roosevelt turned federal forestry management duties over to the Department of Agriculture by creating the United States Forest Service (USFS), Americans have enjoyed the many resources and opportunities that National Forests have to offer. Later, in the 1930’s, National Grasslands, located primarily across the Great Plains, were added to USFS’s purview. Through the use of active forest management, forests are being managed for multiple uses, including hunting, which separates National Forests from lands within the National Park System.
Sportsmen and women are encouraged to celebrate National Forest Week while recognizing that continued conservation of National Forests, Grasslands, and other public lands requires steadfast legislative efforts. In recent years, successfully enacted legislation sponsored or co-sponsored by Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus members has secured funding to ensure that public land is accessible for continued use and enjoyment by hunters, anglers, trappers, and recreational shooters. Examples of such legislation include the recently enacted MAPLand Act and the Great American Outdoors Act.
To protect these sacred American traditions, we must continue to enjoy them. The 4th annual National Forest Week should encourage Midwesterners to exercise their right to enter and use the millions of acres of public land that this great region has to offer. So next week, head to your nearest National Forest to cast a line, practice your aim, or scout your favorite critter for the fall season, and appreciate all that our public land has to offer.
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?