Randall Williams

June 20, 2019

New Study: Significant Opportunities to Open Recreation Access in Colo.

Outdoor Retailer audiences get a sneak preview of a new report from TRCP and onX identifying landlocked state lands across the West

Denver, Colo. — Today, onX and the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership revealed a snapshot of new data uncovered in their latest collaborative study to calculate the acreage of landlocked state lands across 11 Western states.

In a press briefing at the Outdoor Retailer Summer Market, onX founder Eric Siegfried and TRCP’s director of Western lands Joel Webster announced their preliminary findings on access barriers to trust lands in the state of Colorado, including:

  • More than 435,000 acres are landlocked by private land and cannot be reached at all by public roads or through adjacent federally managed public lands.
  • Meanwhile, 1.78 million acres of accessible lands are closed to public access by state policy.
  • A total of 558,000 acres of accessible trust lands are currently open to hunting and fishing because of collaborative agreements between the State Land Board and Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

There are 2.78 million acres of state trust lands in total across Colorado. All Western states were granted lands by the federal government at statehood, and Colorado is the only state in the Mountain West that does not allow public access to the majority of its trust lands. Webster noted that Colorado’s restrictive access rules are actually a greater hindrance to outdoor recreation on state trust lands than the landlocked land issue, which makes it an outlier among other Western states.

Governor Jared Polis is taking proactive steps to address this challenge. “Colorado is arguably the most beautiful state in America, and I’m committed to expanding the public’s access to our treasured federal and state-owned land,” said Governor Polis. “I’m delighted that Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s Public Access Program for sportsmen and women will be growing by more than 100,000 acres in time for the upcoming 2019 hunting season. We will continue looking at more opportunities to increase access in the near future.”

“We appreciate the collaborative work that has already gone into opening state trust lands to public access in Colorado and believe the state currently has perhaps the single greatest opportunity to expand public access in the West,” said TRCP’s Joel Webster. “Without a doubt, Governor Polis’s commitment to expanding public access should be encouraging to everyone who recreates in the outdoors. Other states have come up with innovative ideas for opening access to trust lands, and they offer a model for how Colorado could continue to tackle this issue.”

The project is building on a 2018 report by onX and the TRCP that found more than 9.52 million acres of federally managed public lands in the West are landlocked and lack legal public access. Those findings are available in a new report, “Off Limits, But Within Reach: Unlocking the West’s Inaccessible Public Lands,” which unpacks the issue in unprecedented detail.

“Our company’s mission is to help people find places they can explore to create a memorable outdoor experience,” says onX founder Eric Siegfried. “State lands can be easily overlooked by the recreating public, and more can be done to make these lands accessible to all. We are looking forward to calculating the full extent of access challenges and highlighting constructive opportunities to open lands to the public.”

The full report will delve deeper into the issue of recreational access across 11 Western states by focusing on landlocked lands at the state level. It will be formally presented to the press and public at the TRCP Western Media Summit on August 19, 2019 in Seattle, Washington.

“We’re excited to partner once again with onX on a collaborative project that wouldn’t be possible without their world-class product and commitment to public access,” concluded Webster.

Learn more about the forthcoming report and sign up to be the first to receive it at unlockingpubliclands.org.

16 Responses to “New Study: Significant Opportunities to Open Recreation Access in Colo.”

  1. Miki Clements-Collier

    Having land to hunt is a treasure, however, is there not a call for land without human contact? We humans are so good at destroying our precious natural resources. Even hunters who might leave shells, trash, or disturb the local wildlife who for years has enjoyed being “native Americans”. I do hope there will be ways to oversee that the pristine wild lands will not be compromised.

  2. Dale A Crabb

    The forest service has closed off much of the land under there control by closing all the old logging roads to to public use. Most are gated to keep us out. Making RV camping available only along the dusty country road through the forest.

  3. We had a similar issue here in Southern AZ where the Mearns and Scaled quail live. Two cattle ranchers who’s vast property surrounds 300,000-ish acres both closed and locked their gates right before quail season locking hunters out of this unique opportunity to hunt these very special quail species. They both blamed hunters for not closing gates when passing through and letting cattle out. AZFGD offered to install cattle guards at all the gate sites at no cost to them but were refused access. I am sure that some people got special access to this property but those of us without an ‘in’ didn’t get to go on these challenging and great hunts. I have never encountered an unlocked gate nor have I ever left one open. This was down in the Sonoita AZ area.

  4. Kevin Miller

    Although Wyoming has some public access, it too has major issues in accessing many areas because of landowner landlocking! Private ownership is left to use and exploit our lands with no interference from regulators. It gets real old!!!

  5. William Kneer

    Any ranch that benefits from free range grazing and water with more than a 25% of such ranch in public land cannot deny the public access. Their gain should not be more and by locking out the true owners are blatant thieves that feed off the the public though political alliance.

  6. I am a sportsman and native to Colorado, I would be happy to pay extra every year to access these landlocked state lands. This money could then be used for Colorado public school funding as originally intended.

    Thanks
    Bob Coet

  7. While landlocked public lands makes little sense, we have to respect the rights of the landowner. Forcing the landowner to allow access through roadway or easement is a taking. We should arrive for equitable solutions.

  8. Jim Bates

    It is high time the public started playing hardball on these issues. Public land management agencies and other state and federal entities are supposed to represent the public interest. More and more, private property owners are trying to create their own private playgrounds by strategically procuring properties and then doing everything they can to keep the public off of adjacent public lands.
    There is a simple solution. Just institute laws that any public property that is not accessible to the public is, by law, closed to everybody,…no grazing, no wealthy or connected hunters being able to hunt those properties,…in short, if the public can’t get there, nobody goes in. You want to see many of those private landowners change their tune in a heartbeat and come to the table to compromise,…play the same hardball game they are playing with us!

  9. Dave Alberswerth

    With respect to inaccessible federal public lands, perhaps it’s time for TRCP and other organizations to develop strategies utilizing provisions of Section 205 of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA), which grants the federal government (BLM and Forest Service) the power of eminent domain to acquire access to federal public lands blocked by private property owners: “…with respect to the public lands, the Secretary may exercise the power of eminent domain only if necessary to secure access to pub­lic lands, and then only if the lands so acquired are confined to as narrow a corridor as is necessary to serve such purpose.” This authority, granted by Congress in 1976, has rarely, if ever, been utilized by the federal agencies to deal with this problem.

  10. I’ve been working on this issue in Washington state where large timber companies are charging for access to their forestland and blocking public land in the process. I have discovered many ways that these “landlocked” parcels may be accessed, including forgotten or ignored easements, historic routes, and old mining roads (RS 2477 roads and trails). All of these avenues could be used for access, if pursued. As previously mentioned, rarely used laws for acquiring rights-of-way exist at the state and federal level. How about a federal law that corner crossing is legal by both the private landowner and federal/public landowner, and the compensation is an easement exchange.

  11. Randolph Holford

    Sportsman, I’ll agree that access to public lands is of paramount importance but we must assume certain responsibilities. Seek out land owners and request access, this may take more than one visit. Close all gates, pick up refuse left by others, respect their property including game animals and livestock. If you’re successful leave a gift of meat, processed is better. Volunteer to do some work. I can tell you from experience as a private land owner that the vast majority of people that bother to ask never volunteer any help.

    • Jim Bates

      I most certainly agree with your statement, but we are talking about a different situation here than accessing private lands and how to get in good graces with private landowners. We are talking about private landowners intentionally locking up legal, public access routes to public lands. This is happening with increasing frequency across the west as more landowners realize that public agencies (that are supposed to represent the public interest) are not stopping it. It will only continue to get worse until those agencies step up to the plate and establish (and enforce) public-lands access laws that protect the public interest. Until that happens the problem will continue to escalate to the boiling point,…and when it reaches that point, I fear that things are going to get really ugly. You can only back the (public) dog into the corner so far until he is going to bite you!

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Kristyn Brady

June 18, 2019

What it Means to “Wake the Woods”

Take up our rallying cry for sportsmen and women who step up and speak out about the things that matter most

If you’ve ever set up on a turkey roost in pitch darkness or stalked into a remote treestand before daylight, you’ve felt it: The woods coming alive with the first hopeful rays of sun and your own awareness starting to prickle.

It happens on the water, too—all is calm as your lure drifts, and suddenly there’s the faintest nudge, a slight tension, and you’re compelled to react. Or you’re scanning the open ocean, bobbing along peacefully, until you spot dozens of gulls diving at a feeding frenzy of stripers and you kick your engine into high gear.

The time we spend in the outdoors is split between contemplative, watchful moments and decisive periods of action—and it’s this second part that is the spirit of the TRCP’s #WakeTheWoods movement. Because there are times when it pays to be silent and stealthy, but when it comes to conservation, there are some things worth making noise about. We have to act, as sure as we do when we set the hook or squeeze the trigger.

Today, being an advocate for habitat, clean water, sportsmen’s access, and the outdoor recreation economy means doing more, digging in further, and speaking our minds. No one is going to come find you on the sidelines and ask for your perspective on conservation funding or how to combat chronic wasting disease and mismanagement of public lands.

Having seen what you’ve seen in the outdoors—closer to our lands, waters, and wildlife than many Americans ever hope to be—who could say it better than you?

Photo by Tim Lumley.

Sure, we all have busy lives. That’s why we choose to slow down and seek out the natural world the same way that hunters and anglers have been doing for generations. If you can take the time to watch the forest wake up, to wait for a long-legged critter to step into shooting range, or perhaps to attempt that drift for the 25th time… you can take the time to make sure the future of these traditions is secure.

That’s why TRCP makes communicating with key decision-makers far easier than calling in a gobbler or trading bugles with a ghost of a bull elk. On our website, sending a meaningful, targeted message about a legislative priority that could affect habitat, access, or funding probably takes less time and fewer steps than renewing your hunting or fishing license.

And, while we take conservation as seriously as the next NGO, we tell you how legislative and public processes work in language that you can understand. We hope you’ll trust that you can get the facts from us, but we are asking sportsmen and women to band together, whether you are a TRCP member or not.

Because we know you’re not content to sit idly by. We know you have something to say. We know that, united, we can spark change and an awakening in the dimmest corners of our policy-making system. After all, as Theodore Roosevelt said, “The wildlife and its habitat cannot speak, so we must and we will.” Let’s get loud about the things that matter most.

That’s what it means to #WakeTheWoods.

For daily inspiration, get the #WakeTheWoods t-shirt created by our friends at Hunt2Eat, which features some of our favorite outspoken game species.

Get the Shirt Now!

For more info on what it means to #WakeTheWoods, watch our video:

Top photo by Neal Wellons via flickr.

Marnee Banks

June 12, 2019

New House Bill Would Invest in the Land and Water Conservation Fund 

Public land partners call for swift passage of legislation to fully fund access and conservation program 

A group of bipartisan House lawmakers have introduced a bipartisan bill (H.R. 3195) to fully and permanently fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund and invest in sportsmen’s access.   

Public lands advocates have been calling for this permanent investment in the successful outdoor recreation access program for several years now, with ramped up support for this needed fix since Congress permanently reauthorized LWCF in March 2019. 

Securing permanent authorization for LWCF wasignificant milestone, but it means very little without predictable, robust funding to unlock inaccessible public lands and create new outdoor recreation opportunities all across the country,” says Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation PartnershipWe’re grateful to see lawmakers respond to this fact and remain committed to the success of this important program.” 

U.S. Representatives Jeff Van Drew (D-N.J.) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.) introduced the bipartisan legislation, which directs $900 million annually to the LWCF trust fund account. The bill also has support from House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and the five Natural Resource Subcommittee Chairs. 

When the LWCF was created, Congress intended for the full $900 million, underwritten by a small portion of annual offshore oil and gas lease revenues, to be used for conservation projects each year. However, only about half of those funds are, in fact, allocated to conservation efforts annually. To date, more than $20 billion in potential LWCF funds have been diverted elsewhere. This legislation would ensure $900 million in funding is directed annually to the LWCF account and expended only for projects benefitting conservation, outdoor recreation and access as Congress originally intended for the program. 

Over its 50-year history, LWCF has expanded access in every state and supported over 41,000 state and local park projects.   

According to a report from TRCP and onX, 9.52 million acres of federal public land remain inaccessible. This legislation will help open access to these landlocked parcels.  

“H.R. 3195 and Senate version S. 1081 are the final pieces we need to fulfill our conservation community’s agenda to permanently authorize LWCF with dedicated and full funding,” said Howard K. Vincent, president and CEO of Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever. “We are grateful to both the House and Senate members that support this effort. If enacted, LWCF will continue to ensure a legacy of access and quality habitat for generations.” 

“If you have spent time outdoors at a fishing access site, state park, public lands or local open space, there’s a good chance that you’ve directly benefitted from the Land and Water Conservation Fund,”said Corey Fisher, public land policy director for Trout Unlimited. “But to reach its full potential, LWCF needs full, dedicated funding. We thank our tireless champions in Congress for their work to fulfill the LWCF promise to the American people and ensure that this program continues to sustain our outdoor traditions.”    

“The Conservation Fund applauds Congressman Van Drew and his bipartisan colleagues for introducing this bill to ensure full and permanent funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund,” said Larry Selzer, president and CEO of The Conservation Fund. “The LWCF is a tremendously successful program that provides unmatched economic, environmental, social, cultural and historical value to Americans. It is also an important tool for reducing the threat of wildfire, supporting local economies, and improving the management of our public lands. While Congress recently enacted permanent authorization of the program, LWCF cannot fully function without full and permanent funding to benefit America’s communities, the environment and the economy for generations to come.” 

“There is broad agreement regarding the benefits of LWCF, and on the need for permanent reauthorization, with full, dedicated annual funding,” says Brent Rudolph, chief conservation and legislative officer with the Ruffed Grouse Society and American Woodcock Society. “Sportsmen and women across the nation depend on the access and habitat benefits from this critical program, and we simply cannot wait any longer for Congress to come together and get this done.” 

“Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) projects have protected and expanded recreation access for all activities across the country,” said Jessica Wahl, executive director of the Outdoor Recreation Roundtable“Mandatory funding for the LWCF will unleash the program’s true potential – ensuring local communities and economies that depend on sustainable outdoor recreation will continue to flourish – and we stand ready to work with Congress to get this critical measure across the finish line.” 

“We applaud the bipartisan leadership from Reps. Jefferson Van Drew (D-NJ), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) and the many other representatives who continue to champion the nation’s most successful conservation program,” says Land Tawney, president and CEO at Backcountry Hunters & Anglers. “The legislation emphasizes the importance of permanently funding recreational public access for hunting, fishing, recreational shooting or other outdoor recreational activities. Think about all the public lands – currently landlocked – to which we could gain access with $900 million in LWCF funding every year. Passage of this bill would be monumental for hunters, anglers and everyone who enjoys our public resources.” 

The TRCP is calling on sportsmen and women to contact Congress about the need for full funding of LWCF here 

Kristyn Brady

June 6, 2019

8 Places Where Will Be New Public Access to Hunting and Fishing by the Fall Opener

Updated as of Sept. 13, 2019: These changes to refuge access were finalized on September 10, 2019 after a public comment period. The Interior Department will indeed expand hunting and fishing opportunities on some national wildlife refuges and fish hatcheries.

In a ceremony at Ottowa National Wildlife Refuge in Ohio this summer, Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt announced a proposal to expand hunting and fishing access on some U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service-run refuges and fish hatcheries and open new sportsmen’s access on others. This recognizes the value of hunting and fishing to the American economy and addresses one of the major threats to hunting and fishing participation—lost access.

“This announcement will benefit America’s sportsmen and women by providing access to prime hunting and fishing areas,” said Christy Plumer, TRCP’s chief conservation officer. “As public access remains a challenge across the nation, opportunities like this are a shining example of what we can do to support our outdoor recreation economy.”

A public comment period allowed Americans, including representatives of state agencies that work in partnership to manage wildlife on these public lands, a chance to weigh in on the changes. Important feedback and calls for clarification are addressed within the official rule posted to the Federal Register.

These just a handful of the areas that will provide new hunting and fishing access to all Americans by the fall opener.

Photo by Friends of Plum and Pilot Islands.
Green Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Wisconsin

This series of islands in Lake Michigan, off the tip of Wisconsin’s Door County Peninsula, provide critical plant and wildlife habitat that would be open to hunting and fishing for the very first time. On Plum Island, once the site of a U.S. Coast Guard facility, shoreline-only fishing has been discussed, and deer hunting could be expanded to a section of Detroit Island. (According to the Friends of Plum and Pilot Islands, special tags have been available since 2016 to manage the deer herd on Plum Island.)

Photo by Tom Koerner/USFWS.
Seedskadee National Wildlife Refuge, Wyoming

Areas already open to some hunting on this refuge in Southwest Wyoming’s high desert plains would allow deer and elk hunting for the first time under the new proposal. Designated units are already open to fishing and hunting for mule deer, pronghorn antelope, moose, ducks, and sage grouse, which actually helped give the refuge its name. Seedskadee is a botched rendition of the native Crow’s name for the Green River: “sisk-a-dee-agie” or “River of the Prairie Chicken.”

Photo by Alan Cressler/USGS.
St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge, Florida

The proposal would expand existing upland and big game hunting to additional acres on this refuge, which is home to both freshwater and saltwater marshes and some of the last remaining longleaf pine forest in the Southeast. This might include additional limited permits for deer, hogs, and turkeys.

Photo by US Fish and Wildlife Service.
Great River National Wildlife Refuge, Illinois and Missouri

This refuge, which straddles 120 miles of the Mississippi River along the Illinois-Missouri border, would expand its season dates for existing deer, turkey, and other upland game hunting to align with state seasons. The proposal would also offer hunters additional methods—currently there is a firearm season for antlerless deer on Fox Island and special permits for muzzleloader-only deer hunting in the 1,700-acre Delair Division.

Photo by Danielle Lloyd/USFWS.
15 National Fish Hatcheries Across the U.S.

Leadville National Fish Hatchery in Colorado and Iron River National Fish Hatchery in Wisconsin would formally open lands for migratory gamebird, upland game, and big game hunting. Inks Dam National Fish Hatchery in Texas and Little White Salmon National Fish Hatchery in Washington are proposing to formally open their lands to recreational fishing.

Always check and follow all refuge and state regulations before taking advantage of hunting and fishing opportunities on U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service lands.

 

Top photo by Joseph McGowan/USFWS.

Kristyn Brady

April 18, 2019

How I Got to Hunt Elk with My Conservation Idol, Steven Rinella

A smart auction bid put Brian Duncan out in the field with the MeatEater host for a dream hunt

If you listen to the MeatEater podcast or watch Steven Rinella’s show, you probably feel like you know him and his whole crew. But you’d be forgiven for feeling a little pressure if he was watching you line up on a bull. Brian Duncan gives us a taste of what it was like to bid for and win a truly unique Colorado elk hunt that brought him face to face with his conservation idol and a hunter’s hunter.

Here’s his story.

I couldn’t believe it when I won—I didn’t think I had a chance at having the highest bid, but before you knew it, I was on the trip of a lifetime with Steven Rinella. He’s someone I’ve always looked up to in the hunting and fishing world, and the information he puts out there really inspired me to get into conservation over the years.

But the last thing I wanted to be was a goofy fan, so there were some jitters about meeting and hanging out with him and Janis Putelis. In the weeks leading up to the hunt, I kept thinking, Am I going to miss or do something stupid in front of them? But those feelings went away quickly once we arrived—not only were they fantastic and welcoming, but there was little to no time to be nervous.

Together with my nephew Jon and some friends, we touched down in Denver and drove up to the ranch, where we immediately sighted in our rifles—we were hunting within hours of being on the ground. Our buddies went fishing with folks from the TRCP, while I went with Steve and Janis guided Jon.

Little did we know that this hunt would start slow and have a fairly dramatic conclusion.

At first, Steve and I were just trying to establish a pattern of behavior for this group of elk that liked to hang in a meadow. They seemed to know exactly when it was about to be legal shooting light, because they’d filter into the timber so we didn’t have a shot. It was a cat-and-mouse game to set up in the right spot with enough light left.

I was getting antsy as the days passed and I felt like I only had a few chances left. But things started heating up on our last afternoon: They’d been bugling at us all day, and I was getting excited thinking, This is finally going to happen.

But then, suddenly, we heard a shot—my nephew Jon had gotten his bull. I was excited for him, but knew I’d be disappointed if it had spooked the elk on their way to my field.

Still, they came streaming into the meadow, and we were in position. There were only a few minutes of legal shooting light left. Steve was pointing out a bull and I was trying to find it in my binos and scope, but ultimately I thought it was just too dark to risk having a near miss.

We celebrated Jon’s success that night and it would not have been a loss if we left it at that. In the evenings, Chef Andy Radzialowski prepared the most incredible meals, and the topics of discussion over dinner and coffee ranged from hunting and conservation to literature and politics. That was almost the best part, spending time with so many smart, funny, conservation-minded people and just telling stories.

Like I said, it was almost the best part.

There was a one-hour window of opportunity the next morning before everyone had to leave to make their flights, and Steve asked me if I wanted to go for it one more time. So, we got up even earlier and headed back out to the meadow.

This time, we went all the way around back to where the elk had been exiting into the timber the day before, and just minutes after legal shooting light, there was a bull right out in front of me. It was a nice 5×6 (would have been a 6×6 if one of his tines wasn’t broken off) and it was bugling its head off with a bunch of cows around him. I fired, perhaps a little rushed, and he spun around, but my second shot took him down right away.

They’re always such impressive animals, even if this wasn’t the biggest bull in the world. I already have a full shoulder mount at home, so I plan to have this bull euro mounted for the main wall in my lake house. The real trophy is what’s in my freezer—and every time I share that meat with family or friends, I get to tell the incredible story.

HOW YOU CAN HELP

WHAT WILL FEWER HUNTERS MEAN FOR CONSERVATION?

The precipitous drop in hunter participation should be a call to action for all sportsmen and women, because it will have a significant ripple effect on key conservation funding models.

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