The potential barriers identified to improving access on both public and private lands were largely financial and cultural, not political. Therefore, while funding and cultural barriers may still be formidable, it appears that their resolution may be pursued directly without having the added burden of negotiating adverse political policies. This likely will allow for more creative solutions that involve landowners in a negotiated process.
However, the cultural parameters that guide landowners’ decisions to grant hunter access on private lands has changed dramatically during the past few decades. Past or perceived bad behavior by hunters, liability concerns, and leasing hunting rights are a few of the contextual cultural changes that have occurred (see Highlights of Key Access Research). These cultural issues must be factored into any future access programs.
State agencies would likely benefit from the creation of oversight and/or advisory groups that would guide their access efforts. At present, 22 states report that they have either an external advisory group and/or an internal oversight group and 27 states report that they do not have either type of group. The establishment of these groups could help ensure that the cultural, demographic, and management issues regarding access are integrated into new access programs.
Many states have developed innovative programs that are adaptive to landowner desires. These programs appear to be growing. This implies that states have a working understanding of the motivations of both hunters and landowners that encourage participation. However, a need exists to improve program evaluations for access programs currently in place. Improving our knowledge of landowner motivations and values will be critical as established programs grow and new programs are developed in the future.
The need to exchange information within and among agencies regarding which agencies and organizations are conducting programs, who their partners are, and how well their programs are working also remains critical. In some cases, knowledge about what their own agency or organization is doing does not appear to be readily available to others. This awareness gap within and among agencies and organizations may be symptomatic of a general lack of awareness of the critical role that providing access plays in recruiting and retaining hunters.
Current hunting access programs are funded largely by hunting license funds, Federal Aid in Sport Fish and Wildlife (Pittman-Robertson), and special permits, stamps and tags. Additional funding sources will likely be needed to meet the future demand. Current strategies include state open-space bond funds that are being effectively used by some states to address this need.
Outside of the narrow scope of this assessment, the hunting community would benefit from recognizing that the need for hunter access is not limited to hunters or hunting. A broad coalition of outdoor recreationists is beginning to coalesce to push for reauthorization and full funding of the Land and Water Conservation Fund. If successful, the reauthorization and enhanced funding levels could provide much needed financial support for a broad array of outdoor recreations, including hunting.