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Incentives To Open Private Land For Public Recreation

posted on March 11, 2005

Individual pet projects, sometimes called "pork barrel" politics, can slow the effort to control spending and balance the budget. The U.S. House of Representatives this week approved a highway bill worth $284 billion over six years. That lofty total met White House objectives, but still included appropriations for pet projects, including some $325 million to build a pair of bridges in Alaska.

A more modest effort was launched this week by two rural lawmakers who see the need for opening up land in farm country for recreational needs.


Incentives To Open Private Land For Public Recreation

34 million hunters with almost nowhere to hunt. That's what two U.S. senators are citing as their reason for introducing legislation that would create more land for hunters and other outdoor recreation activities.

Senator Kent Conrad, (D) North Dakota: "Increasing people are having trouble getting access, whether they want to hunt, go fish, go birding, just take a walk. Open fields is designed to give an incentive to our farmers and our ranchers to open up their fields so people can get access. It's that simple. "

The legislation, referred to as "Open Fields" for short, would authorize $20 (M) million dollars a year for 5 years in federal grants to states. That could equate to about four (M) million acres of new land opened per year. States would use the money to pay landowners willing to open up their property for public recreational use.

To the supporters of this bill, the issue is more than just about hunting and fishing.

Co-sponsor of the bill, Senator Pat Roberts, a Republican from Kansas says the bill also is about economic development for rural America.

Senator Pat Roberts, (R) Kansas: "Here's just a few facts that show the significance of hunting and our current program in my state of Kansas. 150,000 hunters spend an average of 5 days each, hunting in Kansas. Each day they spend an average of $113 dollars and 66 centswe got down to the penny-- on food, gas, lodging and equipment. Now those are real dollars that go into the community. Add that up and you got a significant economic impact."

Kansas and 16 other states have their own "public access program". The federal legislation would not replace those local programs, but would allow states to use the federal money within their own incentive program.


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