Senator Jon Tester, D-Montana, and Senator Jim Risch, R-Idaho, today introduced legislation--the "Making Public Lands Public Access Act of 2011"--that guarantees funding for improving hunter access to existing public lands. This bi-partisan legislation is supported by the Boone and Crockett Club, the National Rifle Association and other hunting organizations. The bill directs the U.S. Forest Service and 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.
"Sportsmen and women want the Forest Service and BLM to provide better access to our national forests and BLM lands for hunting and fishing. Senator Jon Tester and Senator Jim Risch are tackling this problem head on with this bill," said Ben Wallace, President of the Boone and Crockett Club.
Additionally, Wallace praised Tester and Risch for "their deep commitment to enhancing hunting opportunities on our public lands." Senator Tester is the Co-Chair of the bi-partisan Congressional Sportsmen's Caucus within the U.S. Senate. Senator Risch is the Vice co-Chair of the same Caucus.
For the 32 million American hunters, anglers and recreational shooters, federal public lands are an 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 U.S. Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service land have inadequate access. Specifically, nearly 2 million acres (or 10 percent) of USFS lands in Montana and 8.4 million acres (or 29 percent) of BLM lands in the Montana/Dakota’s region were identified as having inadequate 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.