by Gary Hompland, Regional Conservation Officer
Question: "A friend of mine who owns a ranch in unit 49 along the Little Wood River told me had negotiated with the Fish and Game for a controlled hunt buck tag in the South Hills in exchange for allowing public access to hunters onto his land this fall. Can he do that?"
Answer: Under certain circumstances, yes he can.
The Access Yes! program is going into its fourth year. Under the old program, landowners could negotiate a cash payment from the Department for providing sportsmen access onto or through their private land.
Landowners told us in some cases they would be willing to allow sporting public access to their land, but they did not want money; instead they wanted non-financial commitments from the Department. To allow the Department flexibility to negotiate other incentives for public access, the commission agreed to a 3-year experiment in the Magic Valley region.
Under a new "Access Yes" pilot program landowners can negotiate with the Department of Fish and Game for public access. One of the incentives allowed by the commission is big game controlled hunt tags for the landowner or an immediate family member in exchange for allowing hunters or anglers access onto or through their private lands.
The process begins with landowners developing a proposal or "bid" for public hunting, fishing, or trapping access in exchange for money, big game controlled hunt tags, habitat improvement projects, or other special projects. In their bid proposal, landowners list specific prohibitions and restrictions. Reasonable restrictions include things such as restricting the maximum numbers of sportsmen per day or prohibiting overnight camping and camp fires.
A local sportsmen review committee evaluates the bids from all landowners to determine the most cost-effective access proposals for sportsmen. This committee then makes recommendations to the Department about which bid proposals to accept.
The Access Yes! program has been a great success in the Magic Valley. Last year 39 landowners signed up for the program and enrolled 184,000 acres of private lands for hunting and fishing access to the public.