Ensuring a future with free, public hunting and fishing access is central to Backcountry Hunters & Anglers work and mission. So we were glad to hear about a recent effort to improve the level of freedom that sportsmen enjoy, by providing access to “locked-up” public lands – lands that are held by the public, but which the public cannot use.
“The HUNT Act” (The Hunt Unrestricted on our National Treasures Act) is legislation aimed at opening access to “locked-up” public lands, where private landowners have blocked traditional access, or where public lands are completely surrounded by private landholdings, with no way in.
Take for example the Sabinoso Wilderness Area in New Mexico; an entire wilderness area surrounded by private land owners who refuse to allow even foot access across their land; or the Troublesome Creek Wilderness Study Area in Colorado, which has had access blocked by a subdivision of vacation homes; or one of the many parcels of land-locked BLM land that checkerboard much of Western Oregon. For most of us, it’s not difficult to come up with an example of an unfishable ‘public’ trout stream, or a well-used elk hide-out owned by the public, but only accessible to those who own the land around it .
American families have been blessed with millions of acres of accessible public lands on which to hunt, fish and recreate. However, as development pressures and human populations inevitably increase so will the importance of ensuring that access to our public lands is available to the sporting public.
Recent studies validate this point, showing that access is the number one issue facing hunters nationwide. That’s why this bill is so important and that’s why “if any bill deserves to pass Congress, this one does” (Ben Lamb in Outdoor Life).
The HUNT Act would:
- Direct federal land managers to identify “landlocked” pieces of federal land or pieces of federal land where access is significantly hampered by private lands. These are lands where hunting and other recreation is technically allowed, but practically impossible.
- List access to public land on the land management agency websites, so everyone knows where they have a right to travel.
- Set aside 1.5 percent of the Land & Water Conservation Fund toward travel easements or small land purchases that would allow access to those parcels.
The HUNT Act would NOT:
- Force private land owners to give up their land; all deals would be struck only with willing buyers and sellers.
- Add any significant more land to the federal estate; this is about providing access to existing public land
- Raise taxes; funding is provided by the Land & Water Conservation Fund, which is funded through royalties on off-shore oil and gas leases
- Open undisturbed lands to motorized use; this act is about providing access to, not through public lands, which includes access to public lands by foot, horse, bike or vehicles. This act properly does not define “access” as being limited to vehicular access.
While the bill has formally been labeled the HUNT Act, it is equally important for anyone who enjoys any form of recreation on public land. Whether you hunt, fish, ride mountain bikes or ski, this bill should be of interest to you. After all, the land doesn’t do you much good if you cannot set foot on it.
Backcountry Hunters & Anglers submitted this letter to our Congressional leadership, expressing full support of the Hunt Act. Please consider doing the same, tell your decision makers why the HUNT act matters to you.
(photo courtesy of Kurtis Liz Brooks)