Respond to this Article January/February 2006

Walk This Way

How some states are securing hunters a place to roam on private lands.

By Christina Larson

Each year, as more American hunters move to cities and suburbs, leaving behind old ties to farms and rural landowners, it becomes more difficult for many to find good land to hunt on. (See "The End of Hunting.") In response, wildlife biologists in a few states have begun to work with farmers and ranchers to arrange for voluntary public hunting use of private land known as hunting "access" programs.

In seven geographically diverse states -- Oregon, Montana, Washington, Pennsylvania, Kansas, North Dakota, and South Dakota -- sizable access programs have been in place for roughly a decade and grown to include 500,000 or more acres. While the national number of hunters dropped by 7 percent between 1991 and 2001, in the same decade these seven states collectively saw the number of hunters in the field, resident and nonresident, rise by nearly 5 percent.

An analysis of U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service data below reveals that when one compares, to the extent possible, apples to apples, states with sizable access programs fare better at keeping hunters in the field than states with comparable rates of population growth, population density, and ratios of public to private land.


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