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Dan Ashe Q&A: The USFWS Director On Wolves, The Future of Hunting, and Open Country

April 3, 2014

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.

1 | Read the full entry

Guide to America's Public Land

Click on your state in the map below.

Find the top public-land destinations in your state, including:

  • Wildlife Refuges
  • State WMAs
  • National Forests
  • Fishing Access Sites

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.

Submit a project for the Open Country Grant Award.
Nominate an individual for the Open Country Award.

Open Country



Event Calendar

  • April 19: Spruce Planting at Crane Pond State Game Area
  • May 3: Jack Pine Planting in the Grayling Forest Management Unit
  • May 29: Red Oak Planting in Shingleton Forest Management Unit
  • June 1: Red Oak Planting in Gwinn Forest Management Unit
  • View all events.

  • April 1, 2014

    An Access Manifesto: Trading the Places You Have For the Opportunity You Lack-1


    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.”

    [ Read Full Post ]
  • March 25, 2014

    Expert: Landowners Seldom Legally Liable for Granting Free Recreational Access-0


    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.”

    [ Read Full Post ]
  • March 19, 2014

    As New York Looks To Limit Landowner Liability, Access Could Get Easier-0


    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.

    [ Read Full Post ]
  • March 18, 2014

    President Obama’s Budget is a Mixed Bag for Outdoorsmen-0


    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
    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.

    [ Read Full Post ]
  • February 14, 2014

    BLM in Cahoots with The Humane Society of the United States?-9


    It took me longer than it should have. But, eventually, I saw it. The issue beneath the issue. And it ticked me off...

    Outdoor Life Editor Andrew McKean, as he is known to do from time to time, sent me a somewhat-cryptic e-mail about a “possible Open Country blog topic.”

    The e-mail contained a string of comments from Facebook in which several hunters were fired up about the killing of two wild burros in Arizona.

    [ Read Full Post ]
  • February 7, 2014

    2014 Farm Bill Breakdown: Conservation Groups Happy with Passage, Despite Some Cuts -0


    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).

    [ Read Full Post ]
  • January 28, 2014

    Is the Farm Bill Really Good for Hunters?-2


    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.

    [ Read Full Post ]
  • December 16, 2013

    Is Pest Control the Future of Hunting?-1


    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."

    [ Read Full Post ]
  • December 10, 2013

    Michigan Hunters Ready To Defeat HSUS in Wolf Battle-5


    The Humane Society of the United States is a veritable ATM of anti-hunting cash.

    Michigan hunters, however, are on the verge of proving that all that HSUS cash still can't buy you love. Or the ability to strip us of our hunting rights.

    According to the Federal 990 reports to the Internal Revenue Service, the Humane Society of the United States stockpiled nearly $523 million in donor support from 2007-2011.

    With that cash in hand, HSUS has been attacking the rights of hunters and anglers across the nation.

    As a Washington-based lobby group, HSUS understands how political games are played. It understands that ballot initiatives are the very best route to achieve its goals.

    Why? Simple. Money wins. Here’s how it works…

    [ Read Full Post ]
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