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

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.

First, let's run down the list of projects and their anticipated impacts.

About $6 million is proposed to fund access-related projects on about 380,000 acres of state-owned land. Work runs the gamut from the establishment of new boat launches to improved access to public hunting areas to trails, roads and infrastructure improvements.

The projects are intended to work hand-in-hand with the state's “NY Open for Fishing and Hunting Initiative” which is a tourism-driven campaign to make New York a go-to destination for hunters and anglers.

As part of that plan, the state will revamp its hunting and fishing license structure to create an “Adventure License”  that allows for the consolidation of hunting and fishing licenses and utilizes the state's driver's license system as a method for showing you possess a valid permit. Which is pretty cool.

But here's the part of the release that caught my attention: The state is proposing to limit the liability of landowners who allow hunting and fishing on their land.

Access to private land, as we have so often talked about, is getting harder and harder to find. Many times, landowners do not want other hunters or anglers on their property either because they hunt and manage the land for themselves or because they lease the rights to others.

But I have been told on several occasions that I cannot hunt a place because the landowner does not want to be liable should I be injured. I have a liability waiver that I carry with me when asking permission – and it still does not provide the landowner with enough security that they will allow me to hunt.

I would bet that plenty of you have encountered the same scenario – a landowner isn't opposed to hunting, or particularly opposed to allowing hunters on his land, but he won't do so because he fears legal action should someone get injured.

All of the steps being taken by New York are solid. Touting hunting and fishing as an economic driver via tourism is something more states should do. Providing funding for access-related projects is something every hunter and angler should get behind and push their legislators to support.

But, clearly, someone who hunts had a hand in this push by New York — A hunter who has likely been denied access to private land based on concerns of liability.

What do you think? Have liability concerns cost you a place to hunt?

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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.

Submit a project for the Open Country Grant Award.
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