West Virginia Senator Wants to Address Hunting Access Problems
Hunting and fishing are part of the culture in southern West Virginia and many people can't go, said freshman State Senator Dan Hall, from Wyoming, W.V. He has received calls from his constituents, who complain about no access to hunting and fishing in their part of the state.
Hall wants the state legislature to study the problem of diminishing hunting lands. In The Register-Herald, Hall lists three reasons that private landowners in the state shun hunters from their properties: lawsuits, vandalism and lack of respect for property.
One of the major reasons for lack of hunting lands in Hall's district, which lies in the southwest corner of the state, is the number of privately leased hunting areas. Large companies, such as coal companies, own approximately 85 percent of the land. Hall has talked to the West Virginia Coal Association about working together to open more lands for public hunting.
Hall said it's much easier for large companies to lease their lands to hunt clubs. The problem is, though, that the average Joe or Jo cannot afford the rates to join these clubs.
For now, Hall is hoping that a committee in the legislature will explore ways to provide more access - either on public lands, or by encouraging private landowners and companies to partner with the state.
Many states already offer walk-in hunting access (WIHA) programs. Kansas has offered a WIHA program since 1995 and within 10 years, more than 1 million acres had been enrolled. A WIHA program offers payments to landowners if they will allow public hunting on their properties. The Kansas WIHA program also allows waivers of liability, protecting landowners from lawsuits, and Kansas state law provides immunity from damages or injuries in cases of ordinary negligence.
West Virginia does not have a WIHA program in place. To see if there's WIHA in your state, or in a state you want to hunt, check out NRA Hunters Rights, where it lists the states with WIHA and associated links.
Some of West Virginia's Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) allow hunting. The Department of Natural Resources offers an interactive link of the state and its associated WMAs.