The government is us; we are the government, you and I. -Theodore Roosevelt

2008 North American Wildlife Policy Conference - Hunting and Shooting Access

Working Draft prepared by the White House Conference on North American Wildlife Policy

In almost all surveys conducted about hunting participation in the United States, the lack of access to hunting and shooting areas for firearms and bows is one of the top constraints to participation. The access to public lands or areas in which to shoot is critical because our country consists predominantly of urbanites and suburbanites. Closures of ranges and hunting areas due to human development lend an increased significance to the access issue. Without access for hunting and recreational shooting the very underpinnings of the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation are at risk—hunters.

There are numerous challenges surrounding access to public lands. In many areas, even though public lands are open for hunting, hunters are unaware of boundaries due to the lack of signs and maps. More than 38 million acres of Bureau of Land Management, Forest Service, and National Wildlife Refuge lands have no or inadequate access. Some of these holdings are landlocked by private lands. The lack of a unified, federal coordination of lands open to hunting or shooting has led to public confusion and closure of recreational shooting areas. There is no unified description of user safety, user conflict, or management guidelines for these areas, therefore local land managers have made decisions on area closures that appear to be arbitrary. This lack of federal response and the loss of public and private lands due to human encroachment, land ownership fragmentation, and private leasing have all decreased the land available for traditional recreational shooting and hunting opportunities.

In preparation for the North American Wildlife Policy Conference, the following goals were identified to address hunting and shooting access.

First, state and federal agencies and conservation organizations must work alone and together to improve the awareness of hunting and shooting opportunities on private and public lands and facilities.

Second, state and federal agencies must improve and expand upon current access programs both on public and private lands.

Third, landlocked and inaccessible federal lands should be identified and prioritized to provide access based on the recreational opportunities available on these lands.

Finally, a comprehensive analysis of the nation’s recreational shooting needs should be developed.

A number of challenges and opportunities have been identified to achieve these goals. All of the goals require coordination and collaboration among state and federal agencies and conservation organizations at regional, state, and local levels. Successful goal achievement would improve hunting and shooting participation rates, make hunters and shooters better aware of opportunities to enjoy their avocations, improve the financial situation of state agencies, which rely on license dollars for much of their conservation work, and assist in promoting the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation.

Identification of access issues and goals are key to improving hunting access. Removing access barriers will address one of the top constraints to hunting and shooting that have been identified by current and potential hunters. It is an essential component of the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation.


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"The wildlife and its habitat cannot speak. So we must and we will."

-Theodore Roosevelt