Bill would open access to lands cut off to public

A New Mexico Senator has introduced legislation that directs federal efforts to improve hunting and angling access on currently inaccessible public lands.

The Hunt Unrestricted on National Treasures Act, or “HUNT Act,” introduced Sept. 21 by Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., asks federal agencies to inventory all public lands greater than 640 acres where hunting and fishing are legal but inaccessible with the goal of expanding access for members of the public.

Any land acquisitions from willing sellers would be financed through a small percentage of Land and Water Conservation Fund monies.

Heinrich introduced similar legislation in 2012, when he was a member of the House of Representatives, but that bill failed to go very far.

Henirich’s latest effort was welcomed by a coalition of influential sportsmen’s groups and outdoor interests.

Supporters say the legislation will maintain and expand sportsmen’s access to public lands that provide important fish and wildlife habitat and offer valuable opportunities for hunting and fishing.

“The HUNT Act would open millions of acres of landlocked public lands to public access, expanding the opportunity for sportsmen to hunt, fish and otherwise enjoy these uniquely American resources,” said Joel Webster, director of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership’s Center for Western Lands.

A 2012 survey for the National Wildlife Federation said nearly 80 percent of the hunters and anglers surveyed support opening access to public lands now inaccessible.

The survey also showed a majority of sportsmen believe “it is a priority to conserve fish and wildlife habitat on and manage public lands for fishing, hunting and other outdoor recreation.”

The website for the Land and Water Conservation Fund called the bill “a helluva good bill for hunters and anglers as well as any person who wants to be able to access our public lands. There’s no hidden agenda or political gamesmanship here.”

Early supporters of the bill, in addition to the TRCP, include the Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, Trout Unlimited, the New Mexico Wildlife Federation, and the Bull Moose Sportsman’s Alliance.

“The HUNT Act exemplifies a pragmatic approach to increasing access to public lands for hunters and anglers,” said Gaspar Perricone, director of the Bull Moose Sportsmen’s Alliance and member of the Colorado Parks and Wildlife commission.

“We commend Senator Heinrich for his efforts to identify federal landlocked lands and for providing the necessary recourses to ensure that they are accessible by sportsmen,” Perricone said. “The HUNT Act will further reverse the trend of declining access to public lands for hunters and anglers.”


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