Numerous surveys show that hunters believe that the lack of access to suitable hunting grounds is the number one concern for the future of their sport.
Several states have responded to this problem by creating financial incentives for landowners who voluntarily open their land to hunting and other wildlife-related activities. Access programs have been established in Kansas, South Dakota, North Dakota Wyoming, Montana and Nebraska.
Several other states are initiating similar programs, but the lack of financial resources makes many states unable to take advantage of offers from private landowners to enroll in an access program. In an effort to remedy this problem the Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program of 2003, also known as the Open Fields Initiative, was introduced in Congress on November 7, 2003. H.R. 3482 was introduced in the U.S. House by Reps. Earl Pomeroy (D-ND) and Tom Osborne (R-NE) and S. 1840 was introduced in the U.S. Senate by Sens. Kent Conrad (D-ND) and Pat Roberts (R-KS). The Open Fields Initiative authorizes $50 million annually through 2007 to fund state efforts to develop voluntary, incentive-based programs that expand public access to private lands.
If fully funded, the Open Fields Initiative will open up more than 10 million new acres of private land to the public each year. And, it allows each state to design access programs to fit the needs of their state`s sportsmen and landowners.