Hunters and anglers across the nation consistently list one challenge as their primary obstacle to spending more time in the field: access. These four groups are making strides at improving barriers to access, and have therefore been named our 2014 Open Country award winners.
Michigan Sen. Debbie Stabenow
As chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee, Stabenow has promoted conservation, ranging from Great Lakes restoration to the requirement that a portion of the Land and Water Conservation Fund be used to provide access to federal lands for hunting and fishing. The 2014 Farm Bill funds eight Critical Conservation Areas that manage wildlife habitat across state lines.
The goal of the scrappy, influential Berkshire Natural Resources Council, based in Pittsfield, Mass., is to preserve the open, rustic landscape of the Berkshire Mountains of western Massachusetts. But the BNRC is also committed to keeping land open to hunting, fishing, and other public recreation. The group owns nearly 9,000 acres and oversees conservation easements on another 10,000 acres.
The motto of this Nebraska company, founded by Eric Dinger (pictured), is “Find a Place to Hunt and Fish.” Launched in 2013, Powderhook serves as an online conduit to pair hunters and anglers with accessible destinations. While the site offers pay-to-play options on private land, its interactive maps are among the best resourses for public hunting, fishing, and recreation areas in the nation.
Idaho Fish and Game Access Yes!
Idaho has one of the finest public access programs you’ve never heard of in its Access Yes! program. The Idaho Fish and Game program provides payment to private landowners willing to open their ground to public hunting and fishing access. In 2013, Access Yes! provided access to nearly 320,000 acres of private land and an additional 485,000 acres of public land.