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AN AGGIE LINE: USU cheerleaders perform during the Aggies' final exhibition game. It's time to cheer for basketball. / Photo by Brianna Mortensen

Today's word on journalism

Friday, November 10, 2006

Q&A with Ed Bradley:

Q: What single issue should be covered more at CBS News?
A: Foreign news.

Q: Have you ever been assigned a story you objected to? How did you deal with it?
A: When I first started in New York at WCBS radio, the assignment editor automatically assigned any story that had a minority in it to me. I objected to being typecast and told him if I didn't get a variety of stories -- as other reporters did -- then I would take it up with the news director.

Q: If you were not in news, what would you be doing?
A: If I had the talent, I'd play bass guitar and sing in a kicking band.

--Ed Bradley, reporter, "60 Minutes," died yesterday of leukemia at age 65 (2006)

New 'walk-in access' program benefits both hunters and landowners

By David Baker

October 23, 2006 | Thanks to the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources' Walk-In Access Program, sportsmen in northern Utah have access to more land than ever before. The program provides monetary compensation to landowners who allow the public to hunt on their property.

DINNERTIME: Chukar and Hungarian partridges harvested by Dave Dahlgren on the Douglas property west of Corrine, Utah. / Photo courtesty of Dave Dahlgren

"There's too many private clubs where you have to pay to get in," said Jay Rinderknecht, of the South Cache Livestock Association. Their property is one of four in Cache County to join the program thus far.

According the Utah DWR Web site, the program was approved by the Utah Wildlife Board on Aug. 11, 2005 as a three year pilot program in the northern region only. Access is granted to the public on participating properties , but there is no motorized-vehicle traffic and hunters also have to sign a logbook.

The landowners are compensated monetarily depending on the amount of acres and length of time they have been in the program. Landowners are also given liability coverage under Utah State Law, and their property is patrolled by conservation officers who check for violations.

Funding for the project came from sportsmen, the Habitat Council, the Blue Ribbon Fisheries Advisory Council and federal aid from the Pittman-Robertson Fund. According to the Web site Toolbox for the Great Outdoors , the Pittman-Robertson Fund was enacted in 1937 and is made up of money collected from an extra tax placed on sporting arms. This money is available for projects that will conserve, develop and enhance wildlife resources,including those that protect habitat and encourage participation in wildlife-related activities.

There are minimum acreages that landowners must meet to qualify for the program. Also, the DWR sends representatives to evaluate the property, and check for suitable habitat and wildlife.

All of the states surrounding Utah, except Nevada, and many western and midwestern states have a similar program in place. Clint Brunson, manager of the Walk-In Access Program, said Utah's program was modeled after others in Wyoming and South Dakota. Most programs were started mainly to give sportsmen more access to hunt upland game birds like turkey, pheasant and Hungarian partridge, Brunson said.

Utah's program lets sportsmen hunt whatever landowners will allow, but he said landowners have the right and privilege to choose what can be hunted on their ground.

Brunson said the program will have two falls and three springs as an evaluation period, which may or may not yield changes.

"The thing about a pilot program is that you can make changes," he said.

Landowner cooperation is essential to the success of the program. Chris Allen, another participating landowner in Cache County, said he read about the program in Farm Bureau Magazine, and decided to join because they already were letting people hunt on their property.

Like Allen, Rinderknecht said they've let people hunt on their land "from day one." He said they were approached and told that the DWR wanted to reward them for letting people hunt on their property. He also feels like the cattle association wanted to give the public an opportunity to hunt on their land because they have used public ground for grazing in the past.

Although the program is still in its infancy, the benefits are already obvious.

"There are a couple of key benefits. One is being able to cooperate with landowners to allow them to still have control over their property," Brunson said. "Two is getting access to the ground ... there isn't one that's more important than another."

From a sportsman's perspective, the gaining of new hunting opportunities is important, especially in northern Utah where there is a lot of private land. For example, Brunson said east Box Elder County is almost completely private land.

Dave Dahlgren, a graduate student in wildlife biology at Utah State and avid bird hunter, said the major advantage of the program is the access hunters are given to more land.

"The program as a whole is a great thing," Dahlgren said. "It's the division (of wildlife resources) doing the best they can for hunters." Dahlgren is from North Dakota, a state with a very successful program, which he still goes back to take advantage of. He said access programs are a way for the middle class to continue to hunt. Otherwise Dahlgren feels like hunting would turn into an exclusive, upper-class privilege like in England. But with word-of-mouth advertising from landowners, he hopes the program will succeed.

Part of this word-of-mouth includes landowners telling those outside of the program how they have benefited -- monetarily and otherwise. Rinderknecht said they use the money they receive from the program to rent ground for their cattle to graze on. In addition to the money, Rinderknecht said the active role the DWR plays in managing and patrolling is another benefit.

The program has already eliminated some of the problems one landowner had during spring turkey season, Brunson said. The landowner was surprised that after joining the program he had less trouble with hunters cutting locks and fences to get their four-wheelers onto his property.

For the most part hunters have been good, and they are signing in and doing what they are supposed to, Brunson said. But Rinderknecht said they have had a few incidences of people bringing motorized vehicles onto the property. And Allen said the only problem was he had to farm around one of the signs the DWR posted.

"Sportsmen have to step up," Brunson said. If sportsmen aren't mindful and respectful, and accept the responsibility to care for this new resource, Brunson said they could lose it. Landowners are less likely to cooperate if their land isn't being respected.

Rinderknecht echoes this sentiment. The public needs to be aware that it is private land and they need to respect the property, he said.

There are also problems from the sportsmen's end. Dahlgren said because of the program he and a friend lost a secret spot they had permission to hunt on. The log at one property showed it had been hunted everyday except a couple since the start of Hungarian partridge season, he said. The limited acreage means more hunters, he added.

But overall, Brunson said the program is a "win-win situation." And every state that has implemented an access program has succeeded in doing so, he added. The program in Colorado, which was set up mainly for bird hunters on Colorado's eastern plains, was such a success they expanded it to include parts of western Colorado to provide more access for waterfowl hunters.

Dahlgren worries if more acres aren't added to the program the existing areas may get over-hunted. But he said with more land comes less hunting pressure. Nevertheless, Dahlgren hopes it continues to gain support, because he thinks it is "a very viable program."

For more information on the Walk-In Access Program go to the Utah DWR's Web site, www.wildlife.utah.gov/walkinaccess/.

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