Date of this Version
Published in Journal of Outdoor Recreation and Tourism 29 (2020), 100256.
The recreational and economic benefits of hunting on traditional permanent public lands are well-established. Increasingly popular “open fields” hunting access programs temporarily open private lands to public hunting through public-private partnerships. Open fields programs have the potential to create public hunting opportunities and economic development in rural communities, but the extent to which open fields programs compare to traditional public lands at providing benefits to hunters and rural communities has not yet been evaluated. We compared hunter use and expenditures on open fields lands and traditional public lands in Nebraska, USA. We used Convolution Likelihood Ecological Abundance Regression, a novel Bayesian abundance estimation method, to predict hunter effort, target species, and total expenditures using combined inferences from hunter count surveys, camera traps, and extensive in-person interviews. Open fields sites generally provided lower hunter use and expenditure returns per unit area than did traditional public lands. However, open fields and traditional public lands provided similar returns in one study region prioritized for highly-publicized upland gamebird opportunities. Our findings demonstrate that open fields programs can create returns in use and hunter expenditures when paired with strategic communication initiatives and further suggest that access programs may benefit from enrolling properties that provide diverse opportunities. Management implication: The study shows, that public access hunting lands near urban areas receive relatively high use, but hunter expenditures may be greater in ecological rich rural areas. Public-private hunting access partnerships can create returns in hunter use and expenditures when they provide access to valued, highly publicized hunting opportunities.
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