Saturday, Sept. 22, marks the 46th annual National Hunting and Fishing Day. As co-chair of the Utah Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus and as a member of the 48-state National Assembly of Sportsmen’s Caucuses, I hope you’ll join me in celebrating the time-honored traditions of hunting and fishing here in Utah. In anticipation of National Hunting and Fishing Day, we note the crucial role that Utah’s sportsmen and sportswomen have played in conserving our treasured natural resources, including Utah’s public lands and wildlife. We also note the importance to Utah’s hunters and anglers of reauthorizing the Land and Water Conservation Fund.
Unless Congress acts, the Land and Water Conservation Fund will expire on Sept. 30. Few programs are more important to sportsmen than the Land and Water Conservation Fund. This program was created by Congress in 1964 and utilizes revenues collected from offshore energy leases to fund the acquisition of lands and waters and to otherwise enhance outdoor recreation opportunities for the general public.
The Land and Water Conservation Fund has contributed $187 million for 450 Utah projects ranging from the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge to Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area to the Bonneville Shoreline Trail in the Salt Lake Valley. Numerous state parks — like Antelope Island, Bear Lake and Dead Horse Point — have also benefitted from the fund. Last week, the Land and Water Conservation Fund cleared an important hurdle when it passed out of the House Natural Resources Committee under the leadership of Chairman Rob Bishop.
Recent estimates suggest that approximately 9.5 million acres of public lands in the West are landlocked, meaning they are not accessible due to land ownership patterns and topography that preclude hunters, anglers and others from gaining access to areas that could support fish and wildlife-related recreation. In Utah, approximately 264,000 acres are landlocked, 251,000 of which are Bureau of Land Management lands. Reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund will help make these lands available to all Utahns.2 comments on this story
In terms of National Hunting and Fishing Day, few people realize that Utah hunters and anglers are the primary source of conservation funding for the Beehive State. Through the purchase of licenses, tags and stamps, and by paying self-imposed excise taxes on firearms, ammunition, archery equipment, fishing tackle, motorboat fuel and other equipment, hunters and anglers drive conservation funding in Utah and the United States. Last year alone, this system contributed $20.58 million, while hunting and fishing licenses brought an additional $27.37 million to fund state conservation efforts through the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. All Utahns benefit from these funds through improved access to public lands, public shooting ranges, improved soil and water quality, habitat restoration, fish and wildlife research, private and public habitat management, hunter education, boat access area construction and many other Division of Wildlife Resources projects.
These programs need your support, and it’s going to take the involvement of every Utah hunter and angler to ensure the future of the outdoor pursuits we celebrate on National Hunting and Fishing Day. Our hunting and fishing heritage should not be taken for granted, and getting the next generation of Utah’s sportsmen and women involved in the outdoors will help ensure the conservation of our natural resources today and for the future.