|The Wyoming Game and Fish Department has recently made the Private Lands Public Wildlife (PLPW) Conservation Initiative a permanent program. One of the facets of the PLPW Access Program are hunting and fishing walk-in areas (WLA).
In 2001, there were 376 hunting and 61 fishing WIAs throughout Wyoming. For 2002, the total has increased to 399 hunting and 58 fishing WIAs. The G&F and the landowner enter into agreements that determine which species are hunted, open periods and land enrolled. These agreements range from 1-5 years. The multiple year agreements are preferred as they reduce administration but more importantly, allow hunters to plan ahead to next season by knowing which areas will be available. WIAs are accessible by foot traffic only, but a few larger WIAs also allow horse use.
Hunters and anglers do not have to ask permission and are encouraged not to. "Since this is on an honor system by the sportspersons, we ask that all anglers and hunters conduct themselves accordingly," said Matt Buhler, G&F access coordinator.
He adds the rules require trash to be packed out and wildlife laws and regulations to be observed. "This access is a privilege, not a right and must be protected through appropriate behavior," Buhler said. "If sportspersons conduct themselves properly, landowners will continue to be in the WIA Program, and people will continue to have a place to hunt and fish."
G&F occasionally patrols the areas to ensure rule compliance. Said Buhler, "One of the best tools we have for WIA rule compliance is the watchful eye of other hunters and anglers."
In the past, numerous private lands were open to both fishing and hunting by simply asking the landowner for permission. In recent years landowners were closing their lands to access due to problems with damage, leaving gates open, competition with outfitters, increased numbers of sportspersons and other inconveniences to landowners. The G&F recognized this problem and began the PLPW program to regain access onto private lands and landlocked public lands. The G&F enters into an agreement with landowners to allow public hunting and/or fishing access in return for a small monetary payment.
Funding for the PLPW Access Program comes from several sources. When sportspersons purchase a conservation stamp, $2.50 goes to the Access Program. Another main source is donations made to the Access Yes program either through a direct donation or when sportspersons purchase or apply for licenses. When anyone purchases or applies for a license, they have the option of including a donation to Access Yes, which goes directly to and can only be used for purchasing easements for both Hunter Management and Walk-in Areas. "In essence, Access Yes donations provide public hunting and fishing access onto private and landlocked public lands," says Buhler. The remaining budget is made up of G&F general funds.
The 399 walk-in hunting areas total 417,691 acres of private land. They also provide access to previously landlocked public lands. The 58 fishing areas include over 80 acres of ponds/lakes and 30 miles of streams/rivers. WIA hunting and fishing atlases are available at all regional Game & Fish offices and license agents. All information is available through the Internet at http://gf.state.wy.us under the PLPW Access Program link. Interested people can also contact regional access coordinators. In Laramie (307) 745-5180 ext. 246, Casper (307) 473-3437, and Cody (307) 527-7322 ext. 27, or call the State Access Coordinator, Matt Buhler, at (307) 473-3428. WIA atlases are available at G&F offices and license agents.
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