Access to Land and Water for Hunting and Fishing Opportunity
For the first time in history, access has become the most important priority to sportsmen over 2nd amendment rights according to polls and surveys conducted over the last four years by reputable firms like Southwick Associates. Our sporting heritage is defined by the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation and the Public Trust Doctrine. They are great societal achievements that set our country apart by declaring that fish and wildlife belong to each and every citizen with equal opportunities to enjoy them.
Hunters and anglers all around the country have advocated for “Open Fields” provisions in the Farm Bill that incentivize private landowner participation in public access programs. Sportsmen organizations have rallied behind legislative and administrative efforts to secure access to quality hunting and fishing grounds on our public lands and waters that have become isolated, landlocked without legal easement, or entangled in ownership disputes. Both organizations and individuals around the country have helped shape these policy vehicles so that they not only address the physical issue of access but also prioritize conservation, habitat protection, responsible land management policies, and protect against the privatization of public lands and wildlife.
Hunters and anglers know that sometimes the hike in is worth the pack out and it’s imperative that we balance motorized vehicle use with the importance of maintaining habitat and non-motorized recreational opportunities. The concept of access and opportunity also extends beyond physical barriers. There are forces working against the diligence of sportsmen and women to dismantle the North American Model in favor of a model that benefits only the wealthiest people who can pay for the privilege. Agricultural interests are domesticating wildlife for monetary gain, misguided advocates of privatizing wildlife are cultivating highly lucrative markets for shooting trophy animals genetically managed for their size, and animal rightists organizations are working to ban hunting altogether by appealing to people’s emotions and fabricating flawed morality arguments. It’s these things that demand our vigilance so that we keep our traditions and values alive and it’s our obligation to future generations that will inherit this legacy.
Finding places to hunt and fish becomes more challenging each year. When asked in a HunterSurvey.com poll if access to any of the places they tried to hunt in the past year had been restricted or placed off limits, approximately 23 percent of hunters said it had. Nearly one in four sportsmen nationwide is potentially losing access to available hunting land. This has a host of negative impacts including:
- An economic threat to the $70 billion generated by hunters and anglers annually;
- Decreased funds for habitat conservation through license sales, ducks stamps, and excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment;
- Lost connections to the outdoors and
- Limitations on where to bring the next generation of conservationists to learn to hunt and fish.
NWF has long understood the need for proactive incentive-based measures to open up public and private lands for hunting and fishing.
Land and Water Conservation Fund
Created by Congress in 1965, the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) is a bipartisan commitment to safeguard natural areas, water resources and our cultural heritage and to provide recreation opportunities to all Americans. The idea is simple: use revenues from the depletion of one natural resource - offshore oil and gas - to support the conservation of another precious resource - our land and water.
Every year, $900 million in royalties paid by energy companies drilling for oil and gas on the Outer Continental Shelf are put into this fund. The money is intended to create and protect national parks, areas around rivers and lakes, national forests, and national wildlife refuges from development, and to provide matching grants for state and local parks and recreation projects. LWCF has helped secure fishing access to sites all over the country and protected vitally important landscapes like the Rocky Mountain Front and the Grand Canyon. Yet, nearly every year, Congress breaks its own promise to the American people and diverts much of this funding away from conserving our most important lands and waters.
NWF and our affiliates are actively working with the LWCF Coalition to secure full funding and permanent reauthorization for this vitally important program. We are seeking 1.5 percent of the funds for public access to public lands, as they provide some of the best places to hunt and fish and are open to all. But, our public lands are increasingly harder to reach. This 1.5 percent of the fund would be used to work with willing private landowners to provide public access to recreational opportunities on their own private lands.