NRA leaders today thanked U.S. Sens. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), Pat Roberts (R-Kans.) and John Thune (R-S.D), as well as Chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture, Rep. Collin Peterson (D-MN), ranking member of the House Committee on Agriculture, Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and Reps. Jerry Moran (R-Kans.) and Earl Pomeroy (D-N.D.) for their instrumental support in including the “Open Fields Initiative” language into the House and Senate passed 2008 Farm Bill. The original bills, SB 1502 and HR 2473, make up the Voluntary Public Access and Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program to increase public access to private hunting grounds.
“NRA is encouraged to see the successful ‘Open Fields Initiative’ project expanded to the national level,” said NRA-ILA Executive Director Chris W. Cox. “This initiative continues to open doors for new participants to experience our country’s rich hunting and wildlife heritage. We support this project to preserve hunting for future generations.”
The “Open Fields Initiative” is already utilized with great success in a number of states. The bill will provide $50 million during fiscal years 2009-2012, to fund state efforts to develop voluntary, incentive-based programs that expand public access to private lands.
The initiative would also amend the Food Security Act of 1985 to encourage owners and operators of privately held farm, ranch, and forest lands to voluntarily make their lands accessible to the public under programs administered by states and tribal governments. If fully funded, the “Open Fields Initiative” will open up more than 10 million new acres of private land to the public each year.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reports that the most current national data reveals 82 million people aged 16 years and older participate in wildlife-related recreation in the U.S., including 13 million who hunt, and more than 66 million engage in wildlife-related recreation such as observing, feeding or photographing wildlife. These individuals spend an estimated $56 million on hunting and fishing equipment and supplies, and more than $28 billion on food, lodging and transportation. Hunting and fishing licenses, permits, stamps and excise taxes on hunting and fishing goods have generated billions of dollars for wildlife conservation, research and management over the years.
“On behalf of our four million NRA members, I’d like to thank Senators Kent Conrad, Pat Roberts and John Thune, as well as Chairman Collin Peterson and Representatives Jerry Moran, Earl Pomeroy and Bob Goodlatte, for their leadership and support to bring this proposal to law,” concluded Cox. “America provides hunters with the richest opportunities anywhere in the world and is home to vast wildlife habitats coast-to-coast and this measure will safeguard our treasured hunting heritage for generations to come.”