3. - Recommend new programs and authorities to promote hunter access.
Text from the Recreational Hunting and Wildlife Conservation Plan, 2008, Page 8
The primary objective is to deliver a great deal of access and conservation benefits utilizing a small amount of funding. Proposals might include some or all of the following components:
- Create a tax credit for fish and wildlife protections, restoration and enhancement and wildlife dependent recreation. This idea requires further development to ensure simplicity in administration so that the Treasury Department need not administer any program that is more appropriately administered by other agencies. Policymakers should note this would be the first instance of a credit authorized for any charitable donation. Considerations include: permanent and long term habitat conservation and preservation; the donation of hunting and/or fishing access easements to an eligible nonprofit organization to expand, improve and enhance hunting, fishing, and other wildlife dependent activities on refuges and adjacent lands; the donation of land (fee simple) or easements to federal agencies that provide access to isolated or difficult to reach public lands for wildlife dependent recreation or land (fee simple) or easements within the acquisition boundary of a specific tract owned by a federal agency; in the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program, establish a tax credit for landowners conducting restoration and enhancement activities, as approved by the USFWS; and conservation for rare and declining species.
- Revive the President’s Budget Fiscal Year 2006 proposal for a 50 percent capital gains exclusion for conservation land sales that further the goals of Executive Order 13443 or other existing programs such as North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA) and State Wildlife Action Plans.
- Provide federal funds to state-based programs that open private lands to hunters and anglers. An example might be tax incentives for timber companies that allow public access and use.
- Authorize the use of non-federal funding to match federal funding for State Access Programs.
- Increase structured hunting programs and recreational shooting opportunities as a means of achieving a net increase in federal land hunting.
- Provide federal technical assistance to states to expand and enhance private land conservation projects on lands enrolled in state access programs.
- Encourage federal or state governments to purchase easements on lands needed to open wildlife corridors, conserve priority wildlife species habitat or to provide access to otherwise inaccessible or difficult to reach federal lands for hunting and other wildlife dependent recreational activities.
- Facilitate National Park Service (NPS) purchase of conservation and access easements from willing sellers on lands adjacent to park units to expand and enhance the use of hunting as a wildlife management tool on the adjacent lands.
- Provide funding for the necessary infrastructure for enrollment in state access programs (signage, fencing, maps, parking pull offs, etc.).
- Establish formal arrangements with states and 501(c)3 organizations to fund public relations and marketing programs for hunting and fishing.
Assessment of Status: Partially Complete
Federal public lands throughout much of the nation provide most of the opportunities for most sportsmen and women to hunt and shoot targets. These opportunities are now more precious as access to private lands is progressively curtailed by urban and suburban sprawl. Loss of access to these opportunities is the leading impediment to public participation in hunting and recreational shooting. Loss of public access that discourages participation in turn drives declines in the purchase of hunting licenses, reducing revenue used by state fish and wildlife agencies for conservation. This hinders state agencies ability to use hunting to maintain wildlife populations at desired levels and withholds from economies of rural communities the valuable expenditures of hunters on food and lodging, supplies, and gear.
The Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentives Program (VPA-HIP), as well as Making Public Land Public legislation are examples of programs to promote hunter access. While progress has been made, there are additional strides that can be taken (see sub-actions for additional detail).