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Support Recreational Access in Public Lands
From the Mogollon Rim to the Coronado Forest, from Escudilla Mountain to the San Pedro River riparian area, hunting, fishing and wildlife watching are long traditions that drive many of the rural economies of the Grand Canyon State. According to the most recent U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Survey on wildlife related recreation more than 2.1 Million people hunt, fish and wildlife watch in Arizona. A significant percentage of this activity occurs on public lands. Unfortunately large swaths of this public land, particularly in southern Arizona, are “landlocked” by privately owned land and not legally accessible by public means such as established right-of-ways, easements or agreements.
A solution to this public access problem is pending before Congress. The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) established 50 years ago is a bipartisan conservation delivery system that is financed by off-shore oil and gas revenues. This program, which conserves irreplaceable lands and improves outdoor recreation opportunities throughout the nation, is up for reauthorization and it’s important that LWCF be fully funded to provide the unmet conservation needs of the sportsmen and conservation community.
Additionally, LWCF must also continue supporting the Coconino National Forest which includes the 56,000-acre Sycamore Canyon Wilderness area. The Forest Service uses funds from the Land and Water Conservation Fund and the Federal Land Transaction Facilitation Act (FLTFA) to protect an area known as the Packard Ranch property where two important streams, the Verde River and Sycamore Creek meet. These waters are home to threatened and endangered fish species such as the Gila trout and must be preserved.
The legislation before Congress specifically authorizes a percentage of revenue to be dedicated to providing access to these public lands throughout the west and in Arizona. It’s important that sportsmen and conservationists let their member of Congress know that sportsmen depend on the public access and quality habitat that LWCF provides.
About the Author: Ben Alteneder is an avid angler and board member of the Arizona Wildlife Federation, the oldest conservation organization in Arizona. Most recently he served as the Congressional Relations Manager for the Arizona Game and Fish Department representing the Game and Fish Commission. Previously Ben served as the Legislative Liaison for the Arizona State Land Department managing their government relations and public affairs. Ben is managing partner at backcountry consulting a public policy and advocacy firm.