Yamaha Outdoors Tips — Accessing the Key to the Gate
By Bob Humphrey
Hunting and ATV riding have a lot in common. In addition to sharing a lot of the same individuals - the groups are not mutually exclusive - both forms of outdoor recreation face some of the same obstacles. Increasingly, the biggest issue for both is access. Unless you are among the fortunate few who own enough land to hunt (or ride) on, you need access to someone else’s land. And both hunters and ATV riders are finding that task tougher, even on public land. There are ways, and the ATV crowd seems to be ahead when it comes to showing them.
Yamaha has been a leader in this regard, and provides a great, pro-active example with their OHV Access Initiative. In addition to providing grants that further the program’s goal of Guaranteeing Responsible Access to our Nations Trails, their staff have worked (if you’ll pardon the pun) side-by-side with U.S. Forest Service employees in tree planting and trail repair and maintenance on public lands. The reward is miles of accessible riding trails. And many private clubs have taken advantage of grants to work with private landowners toward the same end.
The same can be accomplished by hunters by following a few common sense steps.
It begins with maintaining existing access. Each year millions of hunters take to the public and private woodlands across the country and are barely noticed by the general public - until someone misbehaves. It only takes one irresponsible act by an outdoorsman to make front page news (partly because it’s such a rare occurrence).
But that one act could change the minds of a lot of landowners and land administrators. When in the field, or representing your sport anywhere, present a positive image. Behave in a manner that will make the public feel good about hunters in general.
Don’t wait for access to happen; because it won’t. Seek opportunities, then work to make it happen. Consult your local game warden or biologist and ask if there are any farmers or other landowners having problems with nuisance wildlife. That could be an in. Look for recently-acquired public or quasi-public land. Often land trusts use public funds to acquire land or development rights. In many cases if public funds are used, public access is guaranteed. Get involved with local land trust boards and steering committees that decide which types of access will be allowed.
GO ABOVE AND BEYOND
Far too often, a simple “thank you,” is all a landowner gets in return for granting access. Whether public or private, work with landowners or administrators, building relationships and seeking ways to enhance the outdoor experience. Something as simple as offering a day’s working putting up hay or mending fences could go a long way toward retaining access. Be an extra set of eyes and ears for the landowner. If you see something amiss, let them know. (Watch, record and report, but do not get directly involved with any activity you suspect may be unlawful).
As Yamaha’s OHV Access Initiative and volunteerism have demonstrated, many hands make for light work. A group of hunters working together with landowners has a much better chance of gaining and retaining access than does an individual. In some cases, particularly when dealing with private land, smaller groups may be better. They’re less intimidating to the landowner and prevent overcrowding. Larger groups may be more successful working on public land.
As the human population continues to grow and sprawl out into undeveloped areas, remaining areas and access to them will become increasingly more valuable and harder to find. They will be there however, for some time to come. We just might have to work a little harder to find, and hold on to them.