Farmers and ranchers could benefit from opening their gates to hunters and anglers, thanks to legislation reintroduced this week by Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.).

National Farmers Union president Dave Frederickson said the family farm and ranch organization continues to support the Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program Act, or "open fields" initiative. The legislation would provide financial incentives to rural landowners to open their private lands to hunting, fishing and other wildlife activities.

"This Act would compensate landowners for allowing hunting and fishing on their lands and encourage wildlife improvement efforts," Frederickson said. "Experience demonstrates that the rural economic impact of hunting on private lands can be an important contributor to rural economic development and can provide a much-needed boost to the incomes of farmers and ranchers."

Frederickson said Conrad's legislation could also help alleviate the potential conflict between landowners and hunters with increased demand for access to rural lands.

"At least 1 billion acres of farm and ranch lands in the United States are privately owned, yet hunters are finding it increasingly difficult to find safe places to hunt, particularly near urban centers," he said. "The open fields initiative would help create potential hunting and fishing sites, while at the same time ensure that producer participation remains voluntary and that contract terms are accepted by landowners and local entities. This Act serves the best interests of landowners and wildlife enthusiasts."

Source: Association Release