There is an increasing problem facing sportsmen across the West: in too many places, private landowners are blocking traditional access to public lands that are “landlocked” or completely surrounded by private landholdings.
In recent decades, many thousands of acres of rural western land have changed hands, often going from traditional ranching and timber to ranchettes and vacation homes. This can lead to increased loss of access, more fences and no-trespassing signs, more frustration and less freedom.
Some leaders in Congress are trying to address this problem. The HUNT Act (Hunt Unrestricted on National Treasures would basically do three things:
- Direct federal land managers to identify “landlocked” pieces of federal land or pieces of federal land where access is significantly hampered by private lands. These are lands where hunting and other recreation is technically allowed, but practically impossible.
- List access to public land on the land management agency websites, so everyone knows where they have a right to travel.
- It would put aside 1.5 percent of the Land & Water Conservation Fund toward travel easements or small land purchases that would allow access to those parcels.
The bill totally respects private property rights and only pertains to making deals with willing buyers and sellers.
The bill is not about adding more land to the federal estate, but rather guaranteeing the public has access to the land it already owns. The bill does not raise taxes, as the Land & Water Conservation Fund is funded by royalties from off-shore oil and gas drilling.
It’s particularly gratifying to see members of Congress from both political parties working together in a practical matter to resolve an issue that will benefit potentially millions of Americans for generations to come.
After all, the land doesn’t do you much good if you cannot set foot on it.