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Comprehensive Angler Access Study Has Surprising Results

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The Madison Valley The Madison Valley

Results of a recent comprehensive angler access study by the American Sportfishing Association (ASA) and Responsive Management - 2010 Angler Access in the U.S. Report - reveal some surprising views.

The study involved anglers, private landowners and professional fish and wildlife managers who make decisions regarding angler access. Interviews were completed with more than 4,000 landowners and more than 4,100 recreational anglers. This is the first study of its kind to include landowners that have water on, adjacent to or running through their property to document their assessment of angler access. The most important finding is that two-thirds of anglers access most of their fishing from public lands with about half of those anglers primarily fishing from private boats, this includes both fresh and saltwater.

The five major findings in the study are:
•    Public lands are important to anglers as a means to access places to fish.
•    Angler access is tied to boating access.
•    Fish and wildlife professionals are concerned about angler access.
•    While liability is an important issue for landowners, a landowners' privacy is the most important reason why they don't open their land to more people.
•    Landowners are generally unaware of the many programs that agencies and organizations have to help them create access on their property. 

"The most important finding in this study is the predominant role that public lands and access to public lands plays in anglers being able to enjoy their sport," said ASA Vice President Gordon Robertson. "That is crucial information for our state and federal fish and wildlife and land managers and must be taken into account for budgeting and planning purposes."

Robertson further said, "Access is consistently identified as the top issue of concern among anglers and the study reveals that if anglers can't access areas to recreationally fish, they may desert the sport."

Mark Duda, executive director of Responsive Management, emphasized, "This is a thorough and definitive study of angler access in the United States. Agencies and organizations interested in angler access will find this and invaluable resource." 

Other highlights of the study include:
•    92 percent of landowners approved of legal recreational fishing and believe it is important for the public to have the opportunity to do so.
•    About one-half of landowners fish on their own property and two-thirds allow access to those people they know.
•    Approximately one-tenth of landowners allow completely open access to their lands. 
•    Approximately 1 percent of private landowners charge an access fee to anglers.
•    64 percent of recreational anglers access their primary fishing areas from public lands while 16 percent use private lands.
•    54 percent of recreational anglers seek areas with boating access.
•    54 percent of anglers surveyed cited that as their primary source of information about where to fish is word of mouth.
•    The survey found that 89 percent of landowners say they have not experienced problems with recreational anglers in the last five years.

"Anglers have long been viewed as conservationists and generally as good citizens," said Robertson. "It is encouraging to understand from the survey that almost 90 percent of landowners have not experienced problems with recreational anglers over the past five years." 

The study was conducted under a multi-state conservation grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and administered by the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies

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