Private Property Blocks Off Access To Large Areas Of Public Lands

Nov 30, 2018
Originally published on November 29, 2018 4:54 pm

Our region is known for its abundant public land and the backcountry enthusiasts that prize it. But a lot of that land is out of reach to the public.

According to a new report, 9.5 million acres of public land in the West is inaccessible because it is surrounded by private land. The largest swaths of landlocked public acres are in Wyoming, Montana, and Nevada.

Randall Williams is with the non-profit Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. It conducted the study alongside a Montana mapping company. Williams said this is a big issue for recreationalists in the region.

"There are a number of cities throughout the West, places like Boise or Bozeman, where there's substantial population growth, and trailheads are getting crowded," he said.

Williams added that landlocked acres restrain economic growth as well.

"Outdoor recreation is a huge economic force," Williams said. "Recent studies have shown that it accounts for $887 billion in annual consumer spending."

In the Mountain West alone there are over 5 million landlocked acres.

Williams said the best solution to the problem is the Land and Water Conservation Fund. The federal program provides governments with funding to provide access to public lands and preserve things like water resources and wildlife habitats. That fund expired on September 30 and is up for reauthorization.  

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, Yellowstone Public Radio in Montana, KUER in Salt Lake City and KRCC and KUNC in Colorado.

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