Federal public lands are an important destination for many Americans, including hunters and anglers. Despite their popularity, access to federal lands is recognized as being inadequate in a number of areas. CSF began the “Making Public Lands Public” initiative in response to this problem. Subsequently, Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus members have introduced legislation to address the issue of public lands access with a trio of acts aimed at improving access to public lands for hunting, angling, and outdoor recreation.
Nearly half of all hunters conduct a portion of their hunting activity on public lands. However, numerous reports verify 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 Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and U.S. Forest Service (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 nearly 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 U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the National Park Service to open or improve access to existing federal lands for hunting, angling and other recreational activities.
Consequently, the Federal Lands Hunting and Shooting Sports Roundtable was created through a Memorandum of Understanding signed by CSF and other organizations comprising the AWCP, the BLM, the U.S. Forest Service, and the USFWS. The Roundtable was created to improve partnership efforts between the agencies and the AWCP organizations to address issues impacting access to Federal lands for hunting and shooting sports activities. Such opportunities have been identified as important projects by the Congress as expressed in the U.S. House Report to the FY 2010 Department of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act.
CSC Member Senator Jon Tester (MT) introduced the The Making Public Lands Public Access Act (S. 390) in February 2015, which directs 1.5 percent or $10 million of the Land and Water Conservation Fund to enhancing public access for hunting, angling, and recreational shooting on federal public lands. Similar language is also included in the Bipartisan Sportsmen's Act of 2015.
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- User conflicts with non-consumptive users (8.08%)
- Inadequate funding (whether due to budget, fire-borrowing, or other reasons) for improving wildlife populations and habitat (10.10%)
- Poor habitat and land management (13.13%)
- Access restrictions to hunting, fishing, or recreational shooting (15.15%)
- Privatization or transfer of federal public lands (53.54%)