Elk NetworkHere’s How to Take Action to Improve Public Access

Conservation | June 25, 2020

A strong partnership gets even stronger to benefit hunters, anglers and others.

It was an inevitable union. And outdoorsmen and women are the big winners because of it.

In 2012, two organizations focused on opening and improving public access combined their vision into action. The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation with its mission of ensuring the future of elk, other wildlife, their habitat and our hunting heritage, launched a new partnership with a young, tech-savvy company. onX Hunt creates color-coded GPS maps of property ownership displaying federal, state, county and private lands as well as additional features to meet the needs of hunters, anglers and others who enjoy the outdoors.

“Their product is truly revolutionary,” Steve Decker, RMEF vice president of marketing, said at the time.  “We see many product gimmicks come and go in this industry but onX Hunt has developed a tool that is as core to an elk hunter’s gear as the boots on your feet.”

Since then, the onX-RMEF partnership blossomed and thrived over the years by placing public access under a microscope and cementing additional cross-sponsorship ties.

And now in 2020, that partnership steps up to an even higher level with the unveiling of “Report a Land Access Opportunity.” This new program provides the public a platform to share its on-the-ground knowledge about both opportunities and barriers to improve access to public lands and public waters.

“RMEF has an incredible track record of improving habitat and creating access for hunters” said onX Founder Eric Siegfried. “Our close partnership over the past eight years has yielded incredible results, opening up significant hunter access into wild places. Now, by using the app to allow hunters to report their own access opportunities, we’re excited for the next wave of access driven by individual hunters and their on-the-ground experiences.”

What type of info are we looking for?

  • Properties currently for sale that may provide a new public access route to hard-to-reach public land
  • Public land parcels with no legal access routes
  • Gates or roadblocks restricting travel to public land
  • Public waters that are difficult or impossible to reach
  • Places where the public is trespassing when trying to reach public land
  • Private landowners with information about where the public may responsibly cross their acreage to reach public land

A perfect example of how the new program may work actually played out in central Montana in 2013. A RMEF member hunting in the area found out about intentions of a private landowner to sell a 40-acre parcel in a vast landscape dominated by large private ranches. However, this small property had a 30-foot common boundary with the difficult-to-access Lewis and Clark National Forest beyond it. RMEF acted quickly, purchased the land, opened it in time for the general big game rifle season and the Red Hill project, as it was then called, now provides access to 18,000 acres of public land including the Big Snowy Mountains.

Successfully carrying out often-complicated land deals, working with private landowners and a myriad of other partners, and doing so in a timely fashion is nothing new to the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. Since 1984, RMEF and its partners opened or improve public access to more than 1.3 million acres of elk habitat.

To “Report a Land Access Opportunity,” you do not need to be a member of RMEF or onX, although onX members may share locations directly through the onX App using the Waypoint Sharing feature. Non-members may sign up for a free App trial or submit locations here. Once a location is submitted, onX will follow up and confirm the information, add it to its database and share it with RMEF for review and possible action.

So the next time you are chasing elk or trying to land a big trout and you encounter a public access opportunity or barrier, take note and then take action. Help us help you create and improve public access for generations to come. That’s a winning combination for everyone