Each year, America’s 40 million hunters and anglers contribute $200 billion to the national economy, and support millions of American jobs. Hunting and fishing aren’t mere pastimes, they are lifestyles; lifestyles that depend fundamentally on access to quality fish and wildlife habitat. For many hunters, including 72% of all hunters in the Mountain West and Pacific states, access means public lands. Without reliable access to quality habitat, sportsmen reduce their days afield and reduce their economic impact. For small towns across the country, fewer sportsmen mean fewer customers, fewer jobs, and a lower quality of life. Of course, it is no mystery why sportsmen and women stay home: the single most prevalent reason hunters and anglers stop hunting and fishing is lack of access.
Generally speaking, much of the federal estate is open to hunting and fishing; indeed hunting and fishing, and outdoor recreation more broadly, comprise a very core function of these public landscapes. However, a 2004 report to the United States House of Representatives Appropriations Committee concluded that 35 million acres of Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and US Forest Service (USFS) land has inadequate access. In some cases, this may mean insufficient parking, poorly maintained trails, or deficient signage. Sportsmen of course need no formal reports to know that quality access is an ongoing challenge, with hunters and anglers increasingly running into locked gates and posted signs.
BHA is dedicated to providing access to the public lands that we all own, but cannot set foot on. We strongly support legislation at the federal level, such as the HUNT Act and Making Public Lands Public Act, which would direct funding and resources to provide much needed access to landlocked public lands.
In addition, BHA state chapters are working to sustain and enhance popular public access programs at the state level like AccessYes! in Wyoming and Idaho, and block management in Montana. BHA chapters are also working to defend and enhance public access programs on state trust lands.