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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: August 3, 2004

Schumer: Give Outdoor Sportsmen More Access To Private Lands In New York

Standing with local farm officials in Easton, Schumer proposes increasing access to private lands for hunters and other sportsmen

85% of the New York’s private land is posted even though wild-life sports are vital to the regional economy; New win-win plan would provide $50 million in grants to landowners who allow wild-life sports on their land

Standing alongside local farm officials and a farmer/landowner in Easton, US Senator Charles E. Schumer today called for a new incentive program to help increase access to private lands for outdoor sportsmen. The “Open Fields” incentive program would provide payments through state programs to farmers and ranchers who voluntarily make their land accessible to the public for hunting, fishing, birding, and other forms of wildlife-based recreation. Schumer said the proposal would benefit farmers looking for more revenue and sportsmen looking for more land for recreation.

“This is a win-win solution," Schumer said. "Too many of our farmers get up before the crack of dawn and work their tails off but still struggle to make ends meet. This program will provide them with another source of revenue if they choose to participate, while opening up more of our land for hunting, birding, and fishing to help New York's wildlife-based recreation continue to grow."

Each year, more than 82 million Americans and their families engage in some form of wildlife-based recreation – hunting, fishing, birding, and so on. Increasingly, however, these outdoor enthusiasts are frustrated in their search for accessible land on which to pursue these activities. Outdoor sports contribute millions to the North Country’s economy, but posting on private lands severely limits access for sportsmen. The New York State Conservation Council, Inc estimates that 85% of private land is now posted, leaving many outdoor sportsmen hard pressed to find a place for their sports. The State can purchase land for recreational purposes such as outdoor sports, but this is a lengthy and expensive process.

Schumer said today he is co-sponsoring a bipartisan measure to increase access to private lands for sportsmen. The “Open Fields” act would establish a federal fund for states to offer incentive payments to farmers and ranchers who voluntarily agree to allow public access on their land, under terms established by each state. Under the program, the U.S. Department of Agriculture would provide $50 million per year to state programs. To receive funding, the state would describe the benefits that it hopes to achieve by encouraging public access on private farm and ranch land – through such activities as hunting, fishing, birding, and related outdoor activities – and the methods that the state will use to achieve those benefits.

Conservationists estimate that this plan would free up10 million new acres of private land nationwide to the public each year. Schumer said that the benefit of this program would be two-fold: farmers and other private land owners will have a new source of income, and sportsmen will have more land on which to pursue their outdoor activities. In addition, the local economy will benefit from the increased activity.

"Hunting, fishing, and birding are not just recreational activities – they're vital parts of the economy," Schumer said. "This plan will help them flourish and that will be good not only for those who participate but for the entire region."

Schumer was joined today by farm owner Brian Ziehm; Jeff Williams of the NYS Farm Bureau and Bob Hokanfon, National Affairs Coordinator of the NYS Farm Bureau; Howie Cushing, President of the NYS Conservation Council and Wally John, Legislative VP of the NYS Conservation Council.

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