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Open Fields Legislation


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The following came from the Nebraska Birds yahoo group about legislation to encourage the opening of private land for outdoor recreation. I found it interesting. From the discussion there, in order to qualify for funds, the bill requires the land be available for "hunting, fishing, birding, and related outdoor activities."


"Open Fields" Legislation Introduced in the Senate and House


On November 7, Senators Kent Conrad (D-ND) and Pat Roberts (R-KS), introduced

the Voluntary Public Access and Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program Act of 2003,

while Representatives Earl Pomeroy (D-ND) and Tom Osborne (R-NE) introduced a

companion measure in the House. The proposed legislation is intended to

encourage owners and operators of privately owned farm and ranch ground to

voluntarily make their land available for access by the public. The bill would

make $50 million available annually for grants to States that would administer

the funds under individual State programs.


Senators Conrad and Roberts and Congressman Osborne and Pomeroy should all be

commended for introducing this valuable piece of legislation into the Senate (S.

1840) and House (H.R. 3482). Please take the time to call or fax these

individuals and thank them for sponsoring the bill.


The "Open Fields" legislation is a vital source of conservation funding for the

State of Nebraska. Currently Senator Nelson is the only other Nebraska

Representative to formally support this valuable piece of legislation. Please

take the time to call or fax Senator Nelson and thank him for doing so. It is

very important that all of Nebraska's delegates support this measure. Also,

please take the time to call or fax Senator Hagel and the Congressman in your

district to inform them that this legislation is very important to you.


Bill Sponsors and Co-Sponsors:


Senator Kent Conrad phone: (202) 224-2043 fax: (202) 224-7776


Senator Pat Roberts phone: (202) 224-4774 fax: (202) 228-3514


Congressman Tom Osborne phone: (202) 225-6435 fax: (202) 226-1385


Congressman Earl Pomeroy phone: (202) 225-2611 fax: (202) 226-0893


Nebraska Members of Congress:


Senator Ben Nelson phone: (202) 224-6551 fax: (202) 228-0012


Senator Chuck Hagel phone: (202) 224-4224 fax: (202) 224-5213


Congressman Doug Bereuter phone: (202) 225-4806 fax: (202) 225-5686


Congressman Lee Terry phone: (202) 225-4155 fax: (202) 226-5452


***If you are not a resident of Nebraska, you are encouraged to contact your

State's elected officials and encourage them to support this bill. You can find

complete contact information for each member of Congress at the following links:

http://www.senate.gov and http://www.house.gov.

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It's not the Government's money, it's the taxpayer's money.


While it would be a nice thing to do, why do we have to pay for it with taxpayer money? Why do they need to spend 50 million of our taxpayer dollars on this? Whay does it take $50 million dollars to encourage landowners to allow public use of their land? The feds are over-taxing us, then giving it back to the states with rules and restrictions.


And then, how long will it be voluntary? How long until it becomes encouraged, then strongly encouraged, then occasionally mandatory then mandatory as so many voluntary programs have become? Is the 5th amendment about to take another beating?


Can someone put their finger on the section of the constitution allowing the federal government to do this?


I'm feeling very Federalist today.

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Sounds similar to some stuff I studied about preservation of the historic landscape back in the mid-90's. Under the 'bundle of rights' idea, the owner can 'sell' some of the rights for their land (or portions thereof) to be used publicly (as in riverside 'linear parks') or to guarantee that the land will remain in agricultural use for perpituity (in theory at least), to prevent subdivision developers from spoiling our heritage.




I think that part of the deal is that the landowner is held free from liability of any accidents any users might have on their property.


~'nother edit:


I think it gives the owner a pretty nice property tax break, too. At least on the local levels that choose to enact this type of program.

Edited by Squirrel Nut & Beersnob
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Who would cover the land owner for legal liabilities? I would be very hesitant to open my lands up. All one of the public has to do is fall, break a leg, and the land owner will be sued.


As Squirrel Nut posted, generally part of the deal for the landowner allowing people on the land is a release from liability. Many states already have such protections in place. For example, in Nebraska, the Recreational Liability Act allows a release from liability when a landowner opens up land for free public for recreation.

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I like it. As long as we can geocache there. "hunting, fishing, birding, and related outdoor activities."


I'm sure the liability thing was thought about. I would like to hear their solution to it though.


As far as the taxpayer thing. It's not like our taxes won't still go up if it doesn't happen. In other words I don't think each individual person will see a difference one way or the other. I'd like to see more specifically where the states portion of the $50 mill. would go. If it goes to land preservation then it makes sense. But can the state gov't use it for whatever it needs?

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I would guess that the states would use the money to provide incentives for the landowners such as a flat payment, or decreased taxes, etc. With no money incentive, the program isn't worth much, at least in states that already release liability under a state statute. Basically, the farmers and ranchers need an incentive before they are willing to allow people to tramp around on their land.

Edited by carleenp
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