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

March 19, 2014

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.

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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.

  • 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 4, 2014

    Oregon Chub: First Fish to Escape Endangered Species List Without Going Extinct-1


    After more than two decades of research and recovery efforts, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed Tuesday to remove the Oregon chub from its threatened status under the Endangered Species Act. The three-inch minnow is endemic to the Willamette Valley of western Oregon where it now flourishes in floodplain habitats of sloughs and silty marshes. The chub is the first fish to ever make it off the Endangered Species List — without going extinct.

    The ESA turned 40 years old in December and a great deal of criticism has been aimed its way over the last few decades. Just a few short years after its conception, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the ESA was designed to halt and reverse species extinction “whatever the cost.” But some say that cost is too high. State and federal agencies spent more than $1.7 billion on threatened and endangered species in 2012 alone. Billions of dollars, habitat restrictions, and untold manpower stretching across four decades have recovered just 30 species. There are currently 1,519 threatened and endangered U.S. species on the list.

    Historically the ESA has proven successful at arresting species teetering on the brink of extinction. It’s the recovery process that moves more slowly. Although 40 years is a short time to reverse centuries of human impact, at times the ESA list seems like a conservation black hole from which species rarely escape.

    But this one tiny fish from Oregon is finally making it off the list. Here’s how.

    [ Read Full Post ]
  • November 25, 2013

    In the West, Inaccessible Public Land Tantalizes Sportsmen -1


    No sportsman on this continent has a monopoly on frustration when it comes to access. We all wish we had more, whether we’re Eastern trout anglers, Southeastern turkey hunters, Rocky Mountain elk bums, or Canadian hikers.

    But Westerners’ access frustrations are born of tantalizing proximity to public land, much of which is inaccessible. The frustrations are detailed in a spot-on piece in last weekend’s Bozeman Daily Chronicle.

    About 5 percent of my home state of Montana is owned by the state, and managed by the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation, which manages thousands of 640-acre sections spread from border to border. These lands are a the legacy of our homesteading era a century ago, when two sections—typically 16 and 36—in each township were set aside as rural school sites and funding engines for local education. The idea was that grazing or logging from the sections would fund schools in each township, reducing the property-tax burden on homesteaders.

    [ Read Full Post ]
  • October 14, 2013

    Weyerhaeuser and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Need Volunteers for Access-0


    Here's a statement that should spark your interest:

    "The amount of timberland that can be opened to hunting is directly proportional to the number of volunteers that sign up, so participation is vital to the continuation of this program."

    Those are the words of Sandra Jonker, regional wildlife manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. She's talking about a cooperative access program between WDFW and the Weyerhaeuser timber company -- a project worthy of Open Country designation.

    Weyerhaeuser owns a tremendous amount of timberland across the nation with much of it in the western parts of the country. Those lands represent a substantial chunk of deer and elk habitat that may -- or may not -- be open to public hunting access.

    [ Read Full Post ]
  • October 10, 2013

    Feds to ‘Allow’ States to Fund National Parks, No Word on National Wildlife Refuges-0


    U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell on Oct. 10 said the Obama Administration will consider reopening some of the 368 national parks closed by the federal shutdown if their host states agree to pay for it.
    While that is encouraging news -- particularly in Utah, Arizona, South Dakota, and Colorado -- it doesn't mean much for waterfowlers and others closed out of the 329 huntable national wildlife refuges that have been closed to access since the shutdown began on Oct. 1.
    These lands, as well as some Army Corps of Engineers sites, will remain closed unless, that is, states want to pay for them as well. Only select national parks are being considered for state-financed reopening.

    [ Read Full Post ]
  • October 9, 2013

    Federal Shutdown Takes 'Inordinate Toll' on Sportsmen-4


    A consortium of conservation groups claimed during an Oct. 7 conference call that the federal government shutdown is taking an inordinate toll on a routinely abused constituency: sportsmen who pump more than $1.5 billion every year into the economy just in fishing and hunting license fees alone.
    The federal shutdown has closed access to 329 huntable national wildlife refuges, as well as all national parks and other federal public lands.

    "I think Congress's failure to act is really a slap in the face to all of us in this country, but particularly to hunters and anglers," said Dr. Steve Williams, the president of the Wildlife Management Institute and a former director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

    [ Read Full Post ]
  • September 20, 2013

    Compromise Over Hunting and Fishing Access Boosts Odds for New National Park in Maine -2


    Less than a decade after moving into a log cabin in Maine's North Woods, Massachusetts native and San Francisco art school graduate Roxanne Quimby co-founded Burt's Bees personal care products company starting with a roadside stand 50 miles west of Bangor in 1984.
    Burt's Bees blossomed into a multi-million business. In 2007, Quimby sold her share of the company for $350 million and focused on a self-anointed mission to preserve central Maine's forests and purchased more than 120,000 acres in the Katahdin Region and closed it off to hunting, snowmobiling and timber harvesting.
    Already regarded an "outsider," Quimby's disregard for Maine's longstanding tradition of large private landowners -- mostly lumber operations that own huge swaths of the state -- allowing public access to their tracts for hunting, fishing, camping, off-loading, and snowmobiling, made her very unpopular.
    But when Quimby offered to donate more than 70,000 acres of her land -- managed as Elliotsville Plantation Inc. -- to a proposed Maine Woods National Park, many Mainers saw her as a threat to their livelihoods and lifestyles. “Ban Roxanne” bumper stickers became a common sight.

    [ Read Full Post ]
  • August 30, 2013

    Help Conservationists Fight to Sustain Fracking Ban in the Delaware River Watershed-30


    The Delaware River is the longest undammed river east of the Mississippi, flowing freely for 390 miles from its Catskills and Poconos headwaters to the Atlantic Ocean in Delaware Bay, furnishing drinking water for 15 million people in four states.
    The river's fragile 13,500-square-mile watershed also provides abundant public boating, hiking, camping, hunting and fishing opportunities, especially along its 120-mile upper stretch, which includes such fabled trout streams as the Beaverkill, Willowemoc and East Branch. It's also home to hard-hitting smallmouth bass and a historically significant shad run.
    But it could all be gone with the stroke of a pen, according to Delaware Riverkeeper Network Director Maya van Rossum, who says support from "the hunting and fishing community" is vital in defending a "tenuous" three-year moratorium on shale oil drilling -- hydraulic fracking -- in the Delaware River watershed.

    [ Read Full Post ]
  • August 29, 2013

    Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership Funds Wyoming’s Access Yes Program-0


    What does $10,000 get you in Wyoming? It gets you roughly 40,000 acres of prime hunting and fishing grounds through the state’s Private Lands/Public Wildlife Access Program for everyone to enjoy.

    The bad news is, funding for the state-sponsored access program has been drying up. The good news is that for a second year in a row, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership has made a five-figure donation to help ensure access for residents and non-residents alike. The group, comprised of individuals and groups committed to things like free access, walk-in hunting, and wildlife-habitat security, donated $10,000 to the program this month.

    That’s a darned good use of dollars, if you ask me. Wyoming’s access program has been widely praised as one of the best of its kind, not only for providing hunter access, but for private landowners looking to manage wildlife on their property in a manner that doesn’t conflict with their livestock or crop operation.

    [ Read Full Post ]
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