Randall Williams

August 19, 2019

New Study Reveals 6.35 Million Acres of Western State Lands Are Landlocked

onX and TRCP release a groundbreaking analysis of state land access across 11 Western states

This week, onX and the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership revealed the stunning results of a collaboration to quantify how many acres of state lands across the West are entirely landlocked by private land and, therefore, inaccessible to hunters, anglers, and other outdoor recreationists.

This is the anticipated follow-up to last year’s study of federally managed public lands, which showed that more than 9.52 million federal acres have no permanent legal access because they are isolated by private lands.

The Findings on State Land

Using today’s leading mapping technologies, more than 6.35 million acres of state lands across 11 states in the American West were identified as landlocked by private lands. The detailed findings are now available in a new report, “Inaccessible State Lands in the West: The Extent of the Landlocked Problem and the Tools to Fix It,” which also unpacks how this problem is rooted in the history of the region.

“Based on the success of last year’s landlocked report, we decided to turn our attention to the West’s 49 million acres of state lands, which are important to sportsmen and women just like national forests, refuges, and BLM lands,” says Joel Webster, Western lands director with the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “State trust lands, parks, and wildlife management areas often provide excellent hunting and fishing, yet 6.35 million acres of them are currently landlocked and inaccessible to the public. Together with our previous findings, the TRCP and onX have produced the most comprehensive picture of this access challenge across the West.”

The new report and companion website break down landlocked acre totals for each of 11 states. Montana, Arizona, New Mexico, and Wyoming each have more than one million acres of landlocked state lands, creating existing barriers and future opportunities for public access.

“Handheld GPS technologies have revolutionized how the recreating public finds and uses state and federal lands, making millions of acres of small tracts of public lands easy to discover and explore, both safely and legally” says onX founder Eric Siegfried. “GPS technologies have also helped the recreating public become personally aware that inaccessible public lands are scattered across the Western landscape, and onX is eager to help identify the extent of the landlocked challenge and showcase the collaborative tools to fix it.”

Landlocked Acres by State

• Arizona: 1,310,000 acres
• California: 38,000 acres
• Colorado: 435,000 acres
• Idaho: 71,000 acres
• Montana: 1,560,000 acres
• Nevada: < 1,000 acres
• New Mexico: 1,350,000 acres
• Oregon: 47,000 acres
• Utah: 116,000 acres
• Washington: 316,000 acres
• Wyoming: 1,110,000 acres

While the analysis looked at various types of state-administered land, such as state parks and wildlife management areas, the vast majority—about 95 percent—of the landlocked areas identified are state trust lands. Trust lands were long ago granted by the federal government to individual states and are generally open to public recreation in all Western states except Colorado.

“Each year, hunters and anglers across the West enjoy some of their best days outdoors utilizing state land access,” adds Siegfried. “If we can work together to unlock state lands for the public, many more sportsmen and women will have those experiences in the years ahead.”

The Solutions

The report also highlights the various ways in which states are and can be addressing this issue, so that effective solutions can be more widely adopted across the West. Several states have made significant progress with dedicated staff and programs for improving access, and by utilizing walk-in private land hunting access programs to open up state land. Additionally, state-side grants made possible by the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which was permanently reauthorized earlier this year, offer another promising tool to address the landlocked problem.

“Many states have embraced the opportunity to open these lands to recreational access, and it is our hope that this report will help decision-makers find ways to tackle the challenge more completely,” says TRCP’s Webster. “This includes Congress doing its part by passing legislation that would establish full and dedicated annual funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which must direct 40 percent of all dollars towards state and local projects.”

The TRCP is encouraging hunters and anglers to support full, permanent funding of the LWCF through its online action tools here.

Learn more and download the full report at unlockingpubliclands.org.

11 Responses to “New Study Reveals 6.35 Million Acres of Western State Lands Are Landlocked”

  1. Don Thumler

    James Watt was hated but he formulated a broad plan that was trading landlocked public lands for private and landlocked private for public. Net result was dramatically lowered admin. costs. Lands were traded like for like.

  2. Great work! The next report needs to dig into those elusive easements. I have discovered that thousands of acres of landlocked state land in Washington actually have road easements on them with a purpose of “providing access to and from state land”. These roads are being blocked by fee-charging timber companies that want to monopolize recreation access. The state is digging into their old records right now. The big timber companies that profit from state and federal land it trapped in their fee systems are complaining that those easements were for administration only. They sure don’t want the public to access public lands for free when they can charge hundreds for accessing those same acres.

  3. Invoke “Public Domaine Laws” on ALL areas surrounding Public areas. Also, No Longer allow access to Public Lands to Lumber companies, Cattle companies, etc. until they comply to allowing Public Access to Public Lands. Easy solutions. Just DO IT! Please.

  4. Harvey Nyberg

    Access to state lands is very important for recreation, especially hunting and fishing, in Montana. But the access picture is pretty complex. and certainly more complex than simply whether or not a public road touches the section. The statistics in this article paint a pretty bad picture for Montana.

    But, there are several reasons why more State Trust Lands in my state of Montana appear to be landlocked than in other states. First, Montana is the fourth largest state in the union and so has more state land that all but 3 states.

    Montana has not sold off most of its’ state lands like some other states have. The fewer acres of state lands, the fewer that can be landlocked.

    Montana also has less prime farmland which often results in smaller agricultural properties which leads to more section line roads which provide access to more state land sections.

    About 66% of Montana is pasture and rangeland. Commercial ranches in Montana tend to be quite large and pastures tend to be quite large and the terrain is generally highly variable. Therefore, there are fewer public roads which means fewer public roads leading to fewer state sections.

    Montana has a very important hunter access program called Block Management. About 1200 landowners participate in the program (2019) which provides access to many acres of state lands that might at first glance appear to be landlocked. Now, granted this is not permanent access, but it is current access. Many landowners who are not in Block management do allow access for recreation on their lands including state lands.

    Much commercial timberland in Western Montana includes State sections and most of those landowners allow public access.

    So, the issue is a lot more complicated than simply “landlocked”. That does not diminish the importance of providing permanent access to state lands, but it must be considered in a complete picture of the acmes issue.

    Harvey Nyberg
    Lewistown, MT

  5. Joe Gilbert

    Possible solutions to address some of these land locked acres are sales and trades. In Wyoming, the Office of State Lands and Investments has successfully brokered several such situations. Recently, near Sheridan, several small parcels of inaccessable state land were traded for a single large tract near Buffalo. This was a win for the landowner and outdoor users. These exchanges must be monitored closely however to insure the state isn’t trading riparian land for a rock pile. Sportsmen have stopped several proposals that were unacceptable. I personally would pay a reasonable fee to hunt state lands as long as the money collected was used to facilitate exchanges or purchase lands or easements to create access to inaccessable state land. Forced access through private land will be fought at all costs.

  6. D. B. Smith

    In today’s BLM and state lands world my concern is that our elected officials will use this report to trade, sell, and otherwise reduce public access to OUR public lands. I agree with Harvey from Lewsitown that State Lands in Montana are complicated. Here in Idaho the situation is similarly complicated. But will our politician’s use the complicated nature of the state lands situation to “get rid” of our lands? Call me paranoid, but the recent slection of the new Chief for BLM doesn’t make me less so.

  7. We must have access to the public land, the rancher are using public land, such as BML land for pennies on the dollar to feed there cattle using it as there own land, keeping the public off of it, even posting it as private, I saw it with my own eyes.

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Randall Williams

July 12, 2019

Listen: Landlocked Public Lands and Access Across the West

The TRCP’s Joel Webster was featured on America Outdoors Radio to discuss the issue of inaccessible state and federal lands and what hunters and anglers can do to secure more public land opportunities for themselves and future generations. (The segment begins around the 22-minute mark.)

Give it a listen below, or download this episode on your favorite podcast app for your next roadtrip. And be sure to visit UnlockingPublicLands.org, where you can sign up to receive our new report when it’s released later this summer!

 

 

 

Randall Williams

July 3, 2019

Coloradans: Tell the BLM to Prioritize Public Land Hunting and Fishing

This is YOUR chance to play a role in how our public lands are managed and ensure that sportsmen and women have a say about the places where we love to hunt and fish

Bureau of Land Management lands in the Arkansas and South Platte River drainages offer world-class trout fishing, provide crucial habitat for Colorado’s most iconic critters, and offer some of the best backcountry hunting opportunities near the Front Range.

The BLM is in the process of revising a plan that will guide management on 668,000 acres of these public lands over the next 20 years, and sportsmen and women need to speak up.

Please attend a local public meeting in the next few weeks (see schedule below) and share your perspective as a public land user.

These events will offer updates on the planning process, allow the public to share their ideas and opinions on the draft plan, and explain ways for interested citizens to stay involved.

The best way to see that our priorities are included in the plan is to have a presence and provide input at these meetings. Meeting dates, locations, and times, as well as suggested talking points are listed below.

Thank you for taking the time to support our public lands.

 

 

Where and When
Location Venue Date Time
Salida SteamPlant Event Center, 220 W. Sackett Ave, Salida, CO 81201 8-Jul 5:30-7:30 p.m.
Canon City The Abbey Event Center, Benedict Room, 2951 East Hwy 50, Canon City, CO 81212 9-Jul 5:30-7:30 p.m.
Fairplay Fairplay Community Center, 880 bogue Street, Fairplay, CO 80440 11-Jul 5:30-7:30 p.m.
Walsenberg Washington School, Auditorium, 201 E. Fifth Street, Walsenburg, CO 81089 15-Jul 5:30-7:30 p.m.
Denver Denver Marriott West, Monart Room, 1717 Denver West Blvd., Golden, CO 80401 18-Jul 5:30-7:30 p.m.
Colorado Springs Westside Community Center, 1628 W. Bijou Street, Colorado Springs, CO 80904 22-Jul 5:30-7:30 p.m.
Greeley Greeley Recreation Center, Room 101 ABC, 651 10th Ave, Greeley, CO 80631 23-Jul 5:30-7:30 p.m.

 

Suggested Talking Points

  • Conservation of unfragmented, functional habitats: I ask that the BLM safeguard our best hunting and fishing areas by adopting the Backcountry Conservation Area management tool that would conserve important big game habitat, prioritize active habitat restoration and enhancement, and support important public access for hunting and other forms of recreation.
  • Conservation of big game migration corridors and seasonal habitat: I request that the BLM take steps to ensure the conservation of identified big game migration corridors and winter range. This should include not only conserving corridors that have already been mapped and analyzed by Colorado Parks and Wildlife, but also in ensuring that the RMP is able to conserve migration corridors that will be mapped in the future.
  • Public access: Public access is necessary for outdoor recreation. I encourage the BLM to identify opportunities to increase access to public lands that are landlocked or difficult to access because there are few or no access points across private land that enable the public to reach BLM lands.  
  • Community-driven planning: I support conservation measures to maintain the scenic, wildlife, and recreational values of the South Park valley. The management direction for this iconic Colorado landscape should align closely with the community recommendations developed by local stakeholder groups and the county.

Read the Draft Eastern Colorado RMP

 


Photo: Bob Wick, BLM (via Flickr)

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.

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.

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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