08/01/2009 - As hunting seasons approach it is important for all of us, hunters, anglers and those who simply enjoy being in the outdoors, to remember that each of us is judged by our own actions as well as those of others.
Access opportunities, particularly access to private lands, are frequently restricted due to a small number of us having poor land ethics. "The actions of a few individuals over time have impacted all of us who remember the days of unrestricted access to private lands. When we are on private or public lands we need to remember that we are guests and treat those lands with the utmost respect. If we do not, landowners have no choice but to shut off access to their land," says Robin Kepple, Casper Region Information Specialist for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department. "Without hunting access, big game populations cannot be managed in line with what the habitat can support."
The department, through the AccessYes program, works hard to acquire access to private lands in Wyoming. Hunters and anglers can help the program by simply being on their best behavior while using walk-in, hunter management and public fishing areas as well as any other public or private lands where they recreate. "Even on public lands other landowners notice poor user ethics. These actions make it harder for the department and individuals to acquire access on private lands for hunting and angling," says Kepple.
Besides being on their best behavior, hunters and anglers can increase access to private lands by donating to the AccessYes fund. AccessYes donations are the main source of funding for public hunting and fishing access to private lands. "These donations are used strictly for public access; not to pay salaries, buy new vehicles, or pay for any other department expense," says Kepple. "We have more landowners interested in joining the program than we have money available. If every license buyer donated just one dollar for every license they purchase or apply for, the annual budget for access could nearly double. This program provides an inexpensive way for hunters and anglers to dramatically increase their opportunities on private lands."
On average, each dollar donated opens four acres of access. Donations made by hunters and anglers along with help from state restitution funds and a portion of conservation stamp dollars resulted in access to well over two million acres in 2008. Not including landlocked public lands, which are often made accessible when access is obtained to neighboring private lands, 888,752 private acres were opened through the Hunter Management Area Program and 655,973 acres were opened to public hunting through the Walk-In Area Program. Anglers were able to enjoy Walk-In access to 272 lake or pond acres and nearly 100 miles of streams. Lands enrolled in the AccessYes program are found in every county in the state.
Remember, the future of hunting, angling and general recreation access depends on how you act while out there and your support of the AccessYes program.