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USDA Decision to Release Open Fields Funds

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This looks like a great program on the surface.

I wonder how it meshes with a state like ours that currently offers no protections from liability for anything but hunting and shooting.


The plot thickens, huh?

I wonder if this will be "in addition to" efforts to get the Act changed...or "instead of".

One would think we are going forward with the legislative action when legislature reconvenes.


Sportsmen Praise USDA Decision to Release Open Fields Funds



Open Fields is the first federal landowner incentive program of its kind to enhance access for hunting and fishing.


The TRCP praised a decision by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to release funding for the "Open Fields" Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program, a new effort to encourage owners and operators of privately held farm, ranch and forest lands to provide public access to their lands for wildlife-dependent activities such as hunting and fishing.


Open Fields was authorized by Congress for the first time in the 2008 Farm Bill following tenacious support by members of a TRCP-sponsored coalition. The TRCP has been frustrated by delays in the USDA finalizing the regulations but is optimistic that the program now can be implemented expeditiously so sportsmen and landowners can benefit beginning this year.




Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack made the announcement at a July 8 national press conference, at which other speakers included representatives from the TRCP, the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies and Pheasants Forever.





"Open Fields is the first federal landowner incentive program of its kind to enhance access for hunting and fishing - and has been a flagship issue for the TRCP since our group's inception," said TRCP President and CEO Whit Fosburgh, who spoke at the event. "This announcement by the federal government is an unqualified victory for fish and wildlife conservation and our hunting and fishing traditions."




Open Fields provides states $50 million in federal monies to create or enhance voluntary hunter-access programs on private lands and encourages landowners who enroll their properties to employ best-management practices for fish and wildlife. Landowners can receive a financial incentive in exchange for opening lands to the public for hunting, fishing and other outdoor recreation.



"This program will not only help achieve conservation goals, but also increase opportunities for hunting, fishing and other outdoor recreation by providing greater access to privately held lands for wildlife-dependent recreation," said Vilsack.

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If this goes through that would be a great accomplishment. It would also indicate that Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack is responding to those who are advocating for the environment and outdoor, recreational interests. In another post, Tom Vilsack needed pressure to stop using tax money to support factory farms. I'm not sure if he changed his stand on that issue but at least he is acknowledging some of the issues that are brought to his attention. I can only hope that the political climate changes even more to put more emphasis on environmental issues, especially in light of the oil spill in the Gulf.

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