Interior Orders More Access to Public Lands for American Hunters, Fishers, Outdoorsmen 

US Supreme Court takes on tribal rights, treaties and elk hunting (AFP/File KAREN BLEIER)

The media’s focus on the Donald J. Trump administration often centers around the White House and the President of the United States. But across the federal government, his America First policies continue to play out with little notice from the press and significant benefits to the American people.

David Bernhardt, acting secretary of the Department of the Interior (DOI), signed a secretarial order last week that directs the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to make public access to federal land for fishing, hunting, and other recreational activities a priority when considering the fate of millions of acres of land in the United States under the control of the federal government.

And that represents vast swaths of the country, according to the U.S. Geological Survey:

The Federal Government owns nearly 650 million acres of land – almost 30 percent of the land area of the United States. Federally-owned and managed public lands include National Parks, National Forests, and National Wildlife Refuges. These are lands that are held for all Americans.The Federal agencies responsible for managing America’s natural resources must meet both the public desire to protect them and the public expectation of economic growth based on them.

“Identifying lands as available for disposal or exchange is required under federal law,” DOI noted in the announcement.

“However, the BLM’s criteria do not require the agency to weigh public access considerations for outdoor recreation (fishing, hunting, hiking, etc.),” the announcement said.

So Bernhardt issued Secretarial Order 3373, Evaluating Public Access in BLM Land Disposals and Exchanges, which “directs the BLM to – for the first time ever – formally consider what impact the disposal or exchange of any BLM land will have on the public’s ability to access federal lands for recreation.”

“This order will help ensure that the Bureau of Land Management considers public access to public lands,” Bernhardt said in the announcement. “It requires that before the BLM exchanges or disposes of any land, they must first consider what impact the disposal or exchange of land will have on public access.”

“The Trump Administration will continue to prioritize access so that people can hunt, fish, camp, and recreate on our public lands,” Bernhardt said.

Advocates for conservation and outdoor recreation are praising the move.

“Sportsmen and women across the West will benefit from this Interior Department action to sustain and enhance recreational access to BLM public lands,” Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, said of the order. “In some places, there are small parcels of BLM land that serve as the only means of nearby access to hunting and fishing or as the only access points to adjoining public lands managed by other agencies.” 

“The Secretarial Order will ensure that key parcels are valued for this recreational access and help keep these lands in the public’s hands,” Fosburgh said.

“The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation commends Acting Secretary Bernhardt for prioritizing hunting and fishing access in BLM land tenure decisions,” Jeff Crane, president of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, said. “As Chairman of the Hunting and Shooting Sports Conservation Council, I look forward to working closely with the Interior Department to implement this important Secretarial Order on behalf of America’s sportsmen and women.”

“The Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies supports the latest Secretarial Order for recreation on BLM public lands,” Ed Carter, president of the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, said. “Getting the American public outside to recreate, on federal public lands, is important to fostering a healthy public and one that supports conservation.”

“This [order] ensures due diligence unto that end,” Carter said.

“Access to our Nation’s vast public lands is of utmost importance, because where hunting and fishing happen, conservation happens,” Timothy C. Brady, president of the Boone and Crockett Club, said. 

“Access to quality hunting and fishing lands is always a challenge, particularly in the West where access to some of the best mule deer hunting is blocked due to checkerboard public/private lands,” Miles Moretti, president and CEO of the Mule Deer Foundation, said. “By requiring the Bureau of Land Management to consider recreational access before making decisions about disposal or exchange, Secretarial Order 3373 will benefit hunters that depend on the agency’s lands for their recreational pursuits.” 

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