Access Yes! Could benefit from legislation

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RALPH BARTHOLDT/Press A hunter and his dog walk a fallow field on Access Yes! property on the Palouse near Moscow.

If it becomes law, a bill introduced in the U.S. Senate would help Idaho hunters, anglers and landowners with a funding source to open private property to sportsmen and women.

The bill recently introduced by Montana Sen. Steve Daines and Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet would increase the money available to pay landowners to open their private property for public hunting and fishing access.

Called the Voluntary Public Access Improvement Act, the bill would pump more money into the Idaho Access Yes! Program as part of the 2018 Farm Bill.

The latest infusion of money to Access Yes!, which is administered by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, opened an additional 30,000 acres of Idaho private land to public access, and developed a 30-year agreement to allow access on more than 51,000 acres of corporate timberland in Idaho, according to IDFG.

Of Idaho’s nearly 53 million acres, about 31 percent is private property, according to IDFG.

“Our staff works with willing landowners to allow hunting and angling access, which is one of the top issues raised by Idaho sportsmen,” Director of the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, Virgil Moore, said. “Requests from landowners to enroll in Access Yes! has been outpacing our available resources since it began, even as we add more funding capacity. Funding such as provided by this bill would allow us to provide more opportunity to our constituents by working with willing landowners.”

The bill is supported by more than 30 national conservation and outdoor groups, according to IDFG.

Sal Palazollo, an Access Yes! administrator for IDFG, said each region in the state has a panel of outdoorsmen, landowners and biologists who review applications from landowners who want to be paid to allow hunting or fishing on their property.

“We’re always looking for other folks that are interested,” Palazollo said. “Although our budget hasn’t increased substantially.”

The department is working with landowners in the Palouse area, part of the department’s Clearwater Region, interested in opening agricultural land to upland bird hunters, Palazollo said.

“That region has been trying to increase competition (for properties),” he said. “We want to see what’s out there as far as available properties, and increase benefits for sportsmen in that area.”

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