Millions of hunters and anglers in the United States, along with millions more outdoor enthusiasts such as mountain bikers and hikers, recreate on federally managed public lands-lands all Americans own. These are places anyone can go to enjoy themselves. Access is open to all. But what if I told you over nine million acres of these publicly owned National Forest and BLM lands are completely inaccessible to most Americans. That’s an area larger than the entire state of Maryland. In Wyoming alone, over 3 million acres of public lands are cut off from public access.
Essentially, these publicly owned lands are private by default. In some cases, this is because some parcels of public lands are completely surrounded by private lands. These “landlocked” parcels are public in name only since there’s no legal way to access them. And we’re not talking about tiny, isolated pieces of land. Many of these areas are large, contiguous pieces of public property measured in the thousands of acres. The image below shows several thousand acres of landlocked BLM land that hunters cannot legally access, as they are surrounded by privately held land.
In others cases, a map reveals a “checkerboard” mosaic of private and public property. The landscape is broken into private and public “sections” which are usually one-square mile (640 acres) in size. The public parcels touch each other only at the corners of each square section. If a public road passes through a public parcel, access can be had to a single section, but in many cases, the public sections are inaccessible by public roads or trails because they lie within a larger chunk of private property. And because “corner hopping” is considered illegal, traveling on foot from one section of public to the next is not an option.
It’s a frustrating situation that plagues hunters and anglers throughout the western United States. In many cases, access to thousands of acres of public land is blocked by a single piece of private property only a few acres in size. And this is why all hunters and anglers should support a fully funded reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Throughout the history of the LWCF, among its many benefits to hunters and anglers, the program has invested in unlocking inaccessible public lands through the purchase of key pieces of private property. The LWCF is set to expire in just a few short weeks. Learn more about landlocked public lands and how to ensure the LWCF gets reauthorized from our friends at the Teddy Roosevelt Conservation Partnership.