Dan Ashe is one of those guys you ought to know but probably don't.What makes the guy so special? Well, for starters he heads up the agency that controls about 307 million acres of publicly-owned lands, a good chunk of which is open to hunting and fishing. Yeah, bet that got your attention.
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About Open Country
Hunters and anglers across the nation consistently list one challenge as their primary obstacle to spending more time in the field: Access.
Outdoor Life's Open Country program aims to tackle that issue head on and with boots on the ground. The program highlights volunteer-driven efforts to improve access along with habitat improvements to make existing public lands even better places to hunt and fish. The program's goal is to substantially increase sportsman's access across the country by promoting events that make a difference.
Here on Open Country's blog page, contributors take a close look at access issues across the country. Some are public-policy discussions, where we investigate the nuances of public access. In other blogs, we shine a light on attempts to turn public recreation opportunities into private hunting and fishing domains. In still other blogs, we interview decision makers about access issues. Together, we fight for the ability of America's hunters and anglers to have a place to swing a gun or wet a line.
We promise the discussion is always lively, interesting, and fresh, so visit this page frequently to tune into the latest access issue.
The Open Country program culminates in grants and awards with top projects and participants being honored.
Spoilage. Remember that word from high school economics class? Spoilage refers to the goods or services we have but couldn’t or didn’t consume before they expired: the airplane that leaves the ground with empty seats or the hotel that lets a night pass with vacant rooms. It’s waste, like brown bananas in the produce aisle.
The access problem in the outdoors is caused by spoilage, not a lack of acres. I propose we call the problem “Latent Access,” and that we get busy fixing it.
“Access to quality hunting and fishing ground is the most significant challenge facing the future of hunting,” says Doug Saunders, VP of Marketing for the National Wild Turkey Federation. “Organizations like ours and government agencies can only do so much. The largest impact needs to come from private individuals sharing their access.”
Would private landowners grant hunting and fishing access more readily if they weren’t legally liable for the health and safety of their gun- and rod-wielding visitors?
In discussions of expanding access around the country, you hear this a lot: that legal liability is a big impediment to recreational access. But a review of case law indicates that it’s almost always a non-issue.
That’s the conclusion of Dr. Brett Wright, a professor of parks, recreation, and tourism management at Clemson University. He told attendees at last month’s North American Whitetail Summit that access for hunting remains a complex issue, but that liability exposure to landowners is more “myth than reality.”
I have often wondered what the world was like before the days of the electronic media release.
I suspect there was much of the same with one difference: The barrage of releases cluttered up actual mailboxes instead of those of the virtual variety.
That said, there are times when one of those releases contains information I'm actually interested in. One such release made its way to my inbox from New York City (of all places).
The release highlighted New York Governor Andrew Cuomo's list of proposed projects designed to increase and improve public access. But the item that caught my eye might not be the one that you’d expect.
The president recently unveiled his new budget for 2015. For hunters and anglers, it’s a good-news-bad-news scenario. Some things make perfect sense while others will leave you scratching your head.
Either way, the president’s budget is a starting place, when it comes to protecting access and investing in America’s public lands.
The Good LWCF: The president has included full funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund. LWCF helps pay for fishing access sites, boat ramps, and protecting key habitat, using royalties that oil companies pay for offshore oil drilling. LWCF has given American hunters and anglers some premier spots for chasing big game. Places like the Tenderfoot Acquisition in Montana, the Silvio E. Conte National Wildlife Refuge in New England, and inholdings in the Tahoe National Forest in California.
As expected, the Senate endorsed the $1 trillion Farm Bill in a 68-32 vote on Feb. 4 less than a week after it was approved by the House of Representatives in 251-166 tally. President Barak Obama is to sign the 1,100-plus page omnibus package at Michigan State University today.
The bill -- formally adopted as the Agriculture Act of 2014 (H.R. 2642 and S. S.954) -- had been deliberated and debated for more than two years since the 673-page, $288 million Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008 expired in 2012. The 2008 bill had 15 titles, or "chapters," while the 2014 version has 12 titles, including Commodities (Title I), Conservation (Title II), Forestry (Title VII) and Miscellaneous (Title XII).
The biggest news in conservation this week is the presumed passage of the 2014 Farm Bill, a monstrous, acronym-filled jumble of commodity programs, Food Stamps, consumer protections, and wildlife-habitat provisions that adds up to about $1 trillion over the next 10 years.
A bi-partisan conference committee approved the details of the bill late Monday night and forwarded the legislation to the House, which is expected to pass the bill within weeks before passing it over to the Senate (where its reception is less certain). This is a big deal, since the 2008 Farm Bill has been crippling along with emergency extensions since it expired in 2012. And without a real bill, federal programs are frozen, which means no new wetlands are being conserved, no new CRP contracts are being let, and no new prairie potholes are being protected.
David Von Drehle recently wrote a great article for Time magazine titled "America's Pest Problem: Time to Cull the Herd." In the article, Von Drehle explains how many wild game populations have boomed back since the mid-1900s (for example, the American alligator population has increased by 400 percent, whitetails are up 800 percent, and Canada geese are up 370 percent) and now those extra critters are causing problems in urban and suburban areas.
"We have too many wild animals — from swine to swans," Von Drehle writes. "Whether you're a Walmart employee in Florida wondering what to do with the alligator at your door, a New Yorker with a hawk nesting on your high-rise or an Ohio golfer scattering a flock of Canada geese, you now live, work and play in closer proximity to untamed fauna than any other generation of Americans in more than a century."