Tester pushes land access amendment for Montana’s hunters and anglers

Senator’s measure restores popular Open Fields initiative

(U.S. SENATE) – On the eve of big-game hunting season in Montana, Senator Jon Tester is pushing to improve voluntary access to land for Montana’s hunters and anglers.

Tester this week introduced an amendment that will restore the Open Fields initiative.  Open Fields encourages owners and operators of private lands to voluntarily make their property accessible to the public for hunting or fishing.

Tester, chairman of the bipartisan Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus, says that the loss of access to private land is the main reason Montana sportsmen and women stop hunting and fishing.

“Montana is world famous for our hunting and fishing, but we’re also known for our good neighbors who value the traditions of access to land and water,” Tester said.  “This measure keeps Montanans working together to access some of the state’s best places to hunt, benefitting Montana’s outdoor heritage and our economy.”

Currently, 26 states have voluntary public access initiatives, but funding for Open Fields was removed from a recent Senate appropriations bill.

Tester’s amendment is supported by numerous sportsmen’s organizations, including the National Rifle Association, the Montana Wildlife Federation, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, and Ducks Unlimited.

“Diminishing access to hunting land is the primary reason many Americans are forced to give up hunting,” said Christopher Cox, executive director of the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action.  “Reinstatement of the Open Fields program will encourage owners and operators of privately held farm, ranch and forestland to voluntarily make those lands accessible to hunters and sportsmen.  This will help increase hunter retention and help preserve America’s hunting heritage.”

“Keeping the dialogue open between Montana’s private landowners and sportsmen and women is vital,” said Gayle Joslin of the Helena Hunters and Anglers.  “We appreciate Senator Tester going to bat for Open Fields in order to maintain our conservation legacy and our commitment to accessible lands for our hunters and anglers.”

Open Fields – formally known as the Voluntary Public Lands Access and Habitat Incentive – is run by the U.S. Farm Service Agency along with state and tribal governments.  It offers competitive grants to states and tribal governments to expand private land access through easements.

Outdoor recreation represents a $2.5 billion-per-year industry in Montana.  Tester recently held a public hearing in Bozeman on the value of public lands where he heard from Montana’s sportsmen and women.

Tester’s amendment is available online HERE