MISSOULA, Mont.--Yesterday, Congressman Steve Daines (R-MT) introduced legislation--the "Making Public Lands Public Access Act"--that guarantees funding for improving hunter access to existing public lands. This legislation, H.R. 3962,
is supported by the Boone and Crockett Club and other hunting organizations. The bill directs the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to acquire rights of way and other land interests from willing-seller landowners to open access to existing public lands where public access for hunting and fishing is closed or impractical.
"Sportsmen and women want the Forest Service and BLM to provide better access to our national forests and BLM lands for hunting and fishing. Congressman Daines is tackling this problem head on with this bill," said Bill Demmer, president of the Boone and Crockett Club.
Additionally, Demmer praised Daines for "his deep commitment to enhancing hunting opportunities on our public lands." Congressman Daines is a member of the bipartisan Congressional Sportsmen's Caucus within the U.S. House of Representatives.
For the 32 million American hunters, anglers and recreational shooters, federal public lands are increasingly vital to their participation in outdoor sports. Nearly half of all hunters, for example, conduct a portion of their hunting activity on public lands. Reduced access is cited as a primary reason that hunters, anglers and target shooters stop participating in these traditional sports. A 2004 report to the U.S. House Committee On Appropriations concluded that more than 35 million acres of BLM and Forest Service land have inadequate access. Specifically, nearly 2 million acres (or 10 percent) of BLM and Forest Service lands in Montana were identified as having inadequate public access.
Sportsmen and women make important contributions to both wildlife conservation and the nation's economy. The hunting and shooting sports industries create over 160,000 full-time jobs nationwide, generating an economic benefit of over $20 billion annually.