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Editorial

Game and Fish Article


Respecting private land access



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06/01/2012 - Respect. Have you ever really thought about this word? If you look it up in a thesaurus you'll find synonyms such as admiration, high opinion, esteem, and reverence. I like these words; they're honorable words. Just reading them can elevate our mood and make us feel good.

You might respect a certain member of your family for their achievements; or perhaps a favorite NASCAR driver; maybe you respect the guy down the street who just returned from Afghanistan; and you may hold the American flag and the Wyoming Cowboy's logo in high regard. Whomever or whatever you respect, it is not a word to be taken lightly.

So I always find it disturbing when sportsmen refuse to respect the lands where they are hunting and fishing, especially when pursuing their quarry on private lands. Hunting and fishing mean so much to so many of us. And having a place to pursue these deep-felt passions is nothing short of a blessing. The Game and Fish Department recognizes this, and works hard to provide as much access as possible for Wyoming's sportsmen. That's why we have the Private Lands Public Wildlife Access Program in place.

When a landowner enrolls his property in the public access program, he is counting on his property being treated with respect. The Game and Fish Department does everything it can to maintain that trust and keep these priceless private lands open to hunting and fishing. When everything goes as planned the landowner is happy, sportsmen benefit, and the Game and Fish Department can focus energy and sportsmen's dollars to solving other problems.

But it doesn't take much to erode the trust. Trash carelessly left behind, driving on wet roads or closed roads, hunting too close to the landowner's home, failure to leave gates the way they were found, shooting at that landowner's tractors or other irrigation equipment; these are all violations of the trust the landowner has placed in the sportsmen and in the Game and Fish Department.

It disheartens me that there are disrespectful souls out there who would treat private lands with anything less than the utmost respect. But sadly, it happens.

Imagine throwing a barbecue in your backyard and inviting a bunch of people to attend. While you are busy cooking hamburgers and hotdogs your guests are roaming around your property taking full advantage or your generosity. It's not until everyone departs that you discover the damage: Someone picked all your beautiful flowers; another person tromped through your garden and destroyed your tomato plants; you discover smashed beer bottles in your window well and trash stuffed into your rain gutters; and there are two branches broken off your beloved tree. How do you feel at this point? Are you angry? Do you feel betrayed? You have every right to feel this way.

Unfortunately, some Wyoming landowners know how it feels to have their private lands abused. And when it happens, everyone pays the price. Every year a few landowners leave the public access program due to the actions of a few careless people. This results in less hunting and fishing access for everyone. Remember, nobody has the right to hunt or fish on private lands. It is strictly a privilege. And this privilege is bordered by a delicate, thin line known as respect.

It's not that difficult to respect the landowner or the land where you are hunting or fishing. Simply pick up after yourself. Pack out all your trash, including your shotgun shells and used fishing line. Leave gates as you found them. Don't shoot near houses, buildings, or equipment. Stay on roads if asked to, and avoid dirt roads altogether if wet. And obey any other rules or requests made by the landowner or the Game and Fish Department.

You can even take things one step further. If you see someone else violating any of the rules, contact the Stop Poaching Tip Line at 1-877-WGFD-TIP. Your call could make all the difference between keeping and losing this invaluable public access.

Landowners who open their property to hunting and fishing deserve our appreciation and our gratitude. If you encounter a landowner while hunting or fishing on his land, be sure to say "thank you." But the absolute best way we can repay them for their generosity is through respect. Honest, genuine respect will go a long way toward keep these lands open for years to come.

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