Bob Haase’s Another Can Of Worms

Public Access

I think there are many people that take public rights and public access for granted and do not realize how important this is.  This was reinforced a couple years ago when I was attending a Trout Unlimited annual banquet.  An attendee from one of Wisconsin’s Trout Unlimited chapters was presented with an unsung hero award for the volunteer work he was doing in his chapter.  When he was accepting the award he told the audience that most of them did not realize and understand how fortunate they were to live in Wisconsin. 

He explained that he lived and worked in Texas for most of his life and moved to Wisconsin after he retired and told the audience about some of the differences between the two states.  While he was driving someplace with one of his friends he noticed some cars parked along a stream and asked his friend if he knew what they might be doing there.  His friend said that they were probably fishing. He then asked his friend where the fence and gate was to keep the people out that hadn’t paid to fish there.  His friend informed him that this was public waters and anyone could fish there. He explained to his friend that most streams in Texas was surrounded by privately owned lands and that you needed to pay a gate fee to allow you access to fish there.  I also know other people that moved to Texas and couldn’t find publicly owned land to hunt on like we have here in Wisconsin.  Take some time to think about all the other public lands we have available to us for hiking, bird watching, and other activities.

The reason I am writing about this is that our freedom to hunt, fish, and do other recreational activities is slowly being eroded here in Wisconsin.  We have taken for granted the rights we have to hunt, fish, and use publicly owned lands because they have always been there for us to use.  Our tax dollars have been used to purchase land for all people to use regardless of how much money they have. Some land was purchased by Stewardship funds and other lands were donated to the state by those that wanted to assure that they would be held in public trust for all people to use.  As part of the budget bill, the state of Wisconsin is selling 10,000 acres of these lands to private ownership to reduce the budget, making them unavailable for public use. 

In the deer study that was recently completed by Dr. Kroll from Texas it was suggested that Wisconsin establish a Deer Management Assistance Program that would give landowners more say in deer management.  As part of this the WDNR now wants to give landowners the ability to sell antlerless deer tags to people that hunt on their property.  Actions like this helps close off some properties that were privately owned but previously made available for others to hunt on. This helps make us more like Texas where more and more landowners will prevent people from hunting on their land without paying huge sums of money.  The deer they are hunting belong to all the residents of the state, not the people that own the land, and therefore the antlerless deer tags should be sold by the state and not the people that own the land. 

As the population of Wisconsin increases, the amount of state owned land should also increase to allow places for the public to hunt, fish, and use for other recreational activities.  More and more of our privately owned lands where property owners allowed people access to hunt and fish are being bought up by rich people and making them unavailable to the public forever.  We need to maintain publicly owned lands and look at purchasing more so that future generations will always have a place to go regardless of how much money they have.  Our deer czar once said that publicly owned lands are the last bastion of communism. He feels that all lands should be privately owned so that people can profit from them.  I disagree with him and hope you do to.

Bob Haase is the host of  “Outdoors Thursday” heard Thursday mornings at 9:10 a.m. on News-Talk 1450 KFIZ.