Federal public lands are an important destination for many Americans, including those that hunt and fish. Despite their popularity, many federal lands are currently unavailable to the public due to land ownership patterns that preclude hunters, anglers and others from gaining access to areas that could support fish and wildlife-dependent recreation. In response to this problem, CSF developed the “Making Public Lands Public” concept in 2006 to advance solutions that provide hunting and fishing opportunities on landlocked federal lands. Subsequently, Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus (CSC) Members have introduced several pieces of legislation aimed at improving access to public lands for hunting, fishing, and outdoor recreation.
Nearly half of all hunters conduct a portion of their hunting activity on public lands. In western states that feature millions of acres of public land managed by agencies such as the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), hunters’ dependence on public land is even higher with more than 70% spending the majority of their hunting days on public ground in all western states except California. However, numerous reports suggest that access to Federal land is problematic in a number of areas. In fact, a 2004 report to the House Appropriations Committee concluded that more than 35 million acres of BLM and USFS land have inadequate access. Lack of access to hunting lands is cited as a primary reason that hunters stop participating in this traditional sport.
For over a decade, CSF has been at the forefront of documenting the issue of inaccessibility to significant portions of federal public lands. As a result, CSF began the Making Public Lands Public initiative with the support and cooperation of allies in the American Wildlife Conservation Partners (AWCP), a group of 50 non-governmental organizations representing millions of hunter-conservationists. AWCP requested that an access category be created within the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) to be used by the USFS, BLM, USFWS, and the National Park Service (NPS) to open or improve access to existing federal lands for hunting, angling and other recreational activities.
On January 8, Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus member Senator Lisa Murkowski and Senator Maria Cantwell introduced S.47, the Natural Resources Management Act, legislation that would dedicate 3% or $15 million (whichever is greater) from appropriations made to the Land and Water Conservation Fund to projects that secure recreational public access to Federal land for “hunting, fishing, recreational shooting, or other outdoor recreational purposes.” S. 47 passed the Senate on a strong bipartisan vote of 92-8 on February 12, 2019. On February 26, the bill passed the House on a vote of 363-62 and was subsequently signed by the President, becoming law on March 12, 2019.
Last updated: 4/1/2019
|American Wildlife Conservation Partners: Wildlife for the 21st Century||Download file|
|American Wildlife Conservation Partners: Making Public Lands Public Brief||Download file|
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- Improve hunter and target shooter involvement in regulatory and legislative processes. (12.80%)
- 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). (10.40%)
- Offer shooting sports and hunter education as school activities and recreation programs. (61.60%)
- Link existing programming into family-oriented organizations (such as churches and home-school groups) where participants will have the social support to continue. (15.20%)