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Donations Decline for Public Access Program

02/01/2005 - A program that opened more than two million acres of private land to sportsmen last year has seen a decrease in donations since its inception in 2001. The Wyoming Game and Fish Department's Private Lands/Public Wildlife Access Program provides access easements for hunting and fishing. The program relies on the generosity of hunters, anglers, and corporate donations through a program called Access Yes.

In 2004, donations to Access Yes helped open 2.4 million acres of private land across the state to hunters, as well as 85 miles of streams and 280 lake acres to anglers. In 2004, sportsmen within the Casper region had access to three Hunter Management Areas, 32 Walk-In Fishing areas and 52 Walk-In Hunting areas made possible through the program. Most recently, two miles of Walk-In fishing access and 510 acres of Walk-In hunting access were opened to sportsmen adjacent to the Dave Johnston Power Plant near Glenrock in October of 2004.

Despite such successes, donations have seen an overall decrease in the four years the program has been in place. "Donations are dropping," said Matt Buhler, Statewide Access Coordinator for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department. "Reasons for the decrease include the novelty of the program wearing off and increases in license fees." In 2003, sportsmen donated $131,643 to Access Yes. That amount dropped to $117,403 for 2004. Corporate sponsors donated a total of $11,648 in 2003 but dropped to just $7,697 last year.

Contributions are vital to the program's survival. "We collect donations one year in advance so we know how much we have to purchase access with," Buhler said, "And we'd like to try to head off the drop in donations before it becomes a problem."

All lands under the Private Land/Public Wildlife program are open to free use for sportsmen. "These lands provide a private-land type hunt for public-land type cost," Buhler said. "And as a result people are hunting and fishing more because they have more places to go, but they are choosing not to donate to Access Yes when they purchase those licenses."

Buhler said if each person who purchased a license in 2004 donated just one dollar, the program would have raised $586,655 in donations. "This program still needs help from hunters and anglers," he said. "If you're using these lands, and if you donate just one dollar, that will go a long way toward keeping access available to you."

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