Utah hunters, fishermen, hikers, campers, birdwatchers and all outdoorsmen should be thankful they live in Utah, where nearly 85 percent of the state is public land. There is no problem finding a place to fish or hunt or view wildlife.
In Illinois, Indiana and other states across the country, there is very little public land.Most land is private and fenced. Access for hunting and fishing is limited to the land owner and his family and friends.
Illinois is so heavily populated and the land there so utilized that what deer hunting there is - the white tail deer, which is smaller than Utah's mule deer - must be done with shotgun slugs or muzzle-loading black-powder rifles. No high-powered rifles are allowed.
There are several public shotgun-shooting game preserves in Illinois where hunters can take aim at doves, for instance, but there are generally so many hunters using these areas during bird-hunting seasons that anyone taking part must feel as if he is in the midst of World War II.
In Utah, the problem is not too few places available for bird hunting but the lack of birds, such as pheasant and doves.
For years, some Utah farmers have wanted to control access to their private lands. They have tried unsuccessfully to pass a law that would close all private lands to hunting or trespassing unless posted open.
On the contrary, the law has been and remains that private lands, whether fenced or not, are open unless they are posted closed.
Recently, a bill was proposed and is expected to be presented to the Utah Legislature in January requiring the written permission of landowners to enter private lands posted as closed.
In the past, it has been sufficient to have verbal permission, but many landowners and others believe it has been too easy to lie about having permission. The written form or document makes more sense, farmers and the Division of Wildlife Resources agree.
Agricultural leaders say the most common reason for a landowner to post his property closed to hunters and fishermen is experience with slobs who break down fences and gates, leave gates open so cattle can escape, shoot cows and horses and sheep and otherwise damage the farmer's property.
Some owners of large tracts of land have leased their property to private hunting clubs, thus closing the lands to any public hunting.
The hunting club managers oversee hunting and fishing and compensate the landowner for any damages. In many instances, farmers have leased their land to hunting clubs because of bad experiences with slob hunters and fishermen.
Outdoorsmen who come upon a fenced area in Utah that has been posted closed generally need only drive on a little way and they will find unposted land where they can hunt or fish or hike or watch wildlife.
Most of Utah's great western desert and its mountain regions are public lands that belong to the U.S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management or to the state.
If outdoorsmen want as much public land available in the future than they have today, they should oppose the establishment of more wilderness areas in Utah. These areas would outlaw motorized vehicles and enlarge the state's already considerable national parks and monuments.
If outdoorsmen want to keep whatever private lands are open today open in the future to their entry, they should respect the landowners' rights, his fences and gates, buildings, crops, livestock and watering facilities.
It behooves the sportsman to maintain what good relations he has with farmers and ranchers and build even better relations in the future.
Most farmers are avid outdoorsmen and enjoy hunting and fishing themselves. They understand the feelings other hunters and fishermen have about wanting a place to enjoy their hobby.
In battles against increasing wilderness and enlarging national park and monument areas in Utah and in other legislative battles for multiple land use, this state's farmers could use the clout of Utah's more than 200,000 outdoorsmen.
And hunters and fishermen can certainly use the help of farmers to gain entry onto private lands for recreation.
Both farmers and outdoorsmen should form a partnership and work together for their common goals and interests, rather than fight each other.
Education is the key and the Division of Wildlife Resources as well as hunting organizations and farm groups can all help to further this cooperative spirit.