RMEF’s Access Elk Country Initiative

In RMEF at Work by RMEF3 Comments

The lack of access to quality hunting opportunities is the single biggest reason people quit hunting. It’s also the largest hurdle for those just hoping to start hunting. RMEF aims to step up our game as a national leader in providing public access and finding common-sense and common-ground solutions to local access challenges.

The Challenge: Access Lost

In 1915 there were approximately 100 million people in the United States. Today, there are more than 318 million and climbing. This growth has had a two-fold impact on wildlife habitat and huntable landscapes. Not only have we developed and occupy more space, but there are exponentially more people seeking remaining open spaces for recreational purposes, including hunting.

Lack of access to quality hunting opportunities is the single biggest reason people stop hunting.
For those just hoping to start hunting, it is the largest hurdle.

Thanks to the vision and relentless drive of Theodore Roosevelt and all the people who have followed in his footsteps who believed that Hunting Is Conservation, we have an amazing wealth of federal public land. Those 640 million acres are owned by and open to every citizen in the United States. It’s an incredible legacy and one that makes America unique in the world. Unfortunately, when it comes to hunting and recreation, it’s no longer enough. We must seek creative solutions to access existing public lands currently land-locked as well as reasonable access solutions to private lands.

Why It Matters

Hunters provide a vast amount of funding for wildlife management, habitat acquisition, stewardship, and access. So losing access creates a vicious spiral. Loss of access = fewer hunters = less habitat, less stewardship, lower-quality habitat and … even less access. If our hunting tradition and what is known as the greatest wildlife conservation and management model in history is to survive, we must work to provide this and future generations access to quality hunting experiences.

RMEF is in no way suggesting hunters should try to force or coerce private landowners into allowing access. Instead, it is incumbent upon hunters to be innovative and find mutually beneficial ways to partner with landowners.

What We’ve Done: Access = Success

RMEF was founded by public-land hunters, and we have been committed to access from the beginning. RMEF permanently protected its first piece of elk country in 1987—now the 16,640-acre Robb Creek Wildlife Management Area and open to all. Since then, RMEF has taken deep pride in each new acre we’ve protected and every No Trespassing sign we’ve retired and replaced with one that says Hunters Welcome.

So far, RMEF has secured or improved public hunting access on hundreds of thousands of acres of prime elk country in 23 states. The lands RMEF acquires and permanently protects are conveyed to a state or federal agency and opened to public access. More than half of RMEF’s nearly 530 permanent land protection projects—acquisitions, exchanges and conservation easements on private lands—are now open to the public.

RMEF’s contributions to Access Yes! Programs in Idaho, South Dakota and Wyoming helped open more high-quality private land to public access, as well as create access to landlocked public land.

Key Tools:

  • Acquisitions or exchanges on checkerboarded lands create big, unbroken expanses of public elk country
  • Strategic acquisition of small parcels unlocks large blocks of public land
  • Re-routing roads or securing access easements provides legal passage to sweeps of public land beyond
  • RMEF is a proud charter sponsor of Outdoor Life’s Open Country program. The goal is to celebrate and stimulate fresh ideas and good works by giving awards for grassroots efforts that create more opportunities for the public to hunt

How You Can Help

RMEF aims to step up our game as a national leader in providing public access and finding common-sense and common-ground solutions to local access challenges.

Freedom to Hunt: 5 x 50,000: Our goal is to open or secure access to 50,000 acres of public lands every year for the next five years for a total of 250,000 acres of great elk country open to all.

We are working to find more creative ways to partner with private landowners. At the same time, we’re committed to sustaining—and gaining and improving—access to the public lands we already own.

We have only scratched the surface of what can be done to create public access and hunting opportunity in great elk country. With your help, we can create the ways to ensure that tomorrow’s hunters never give up their dreams of fall because they don’t have a place to hunt.