Ask virtually any former hunter or angler why they stopped hunting and/or fishing, and the single biggest would most likely be the loss of a place to go. And almost everyone agrees that lack of access is the single biggest impediment for recruiting new hunters and angelrs. It’s hard to go fishing or hunting when you don’t own land and don’t have access to public land. As a result many states have instituted programs to increase their public hunting land holdings. But like pretty much everything else these days, even that seemingly worthy goal has become to political ideology.
From this story in the Greenfield (Ala.) Reporter:
The debate over whether to extend Alabama’s land preservation program, Forever Wild, has split the new Republican majority in the Legislature and groups that are part of the GOP’s traditional base. The Business Council of Alabama and the National Rifle Association are advocating extending Forever Wild for another 20 years. The Alfa Farmers Federation and other conservatives want the Legislature to hold off.
_”…The division among Republicans was demonstrated by Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh. The Republican from Anniston, who is an avid outdoorsman, voted to approve the bill in committee, but said he was uncertain what he will do when the bill reaches the Senate. A senator who voted against the bill, Republican Tom Whatley of Auburn, said, “It comes down to a philosophy: You are either for government acquisition of property or you are not.”
According to the story, the Forever Wild program uses 10 percent of the earnings from a trust fund for Alabama’s oil and gas revenue to purchase public hunting and recreation lands. Spending about $12 million a year, it has purchased or secured more than 222,000 acres, with 99 percent of it open to recreation and 96 percent to hunt.
“…Jim Porter of Birmingham, a vice president of the NRA, said Forever Wild has helped the average hunter who can’t afford to purchase his own hunting land or pay for expensive leases. “This is a vital program to us,” he said. Another NRA member, former Republican gubernatorial candidate Bradley Byrne, said Forever Wild makes it affordable for the average guy to take his children or grandchildren hunting. “That’s an important part of who we are in Alabama,” he said.
Thoughts? Reaction? Many states have similar programs to Alabama’s, is this debate playing out in your home state, too?