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Study Assesses Public Access to Private Land for Recreation Purposes

Photo of Private forest land posted against unauthorized public access. Forest ServicePrivate forest land posted against unauthorized public access. Forest ServiceSnapshot : Scientists review opportunities, constraints, and possibilities for relieving recreational pressure on public lands

Principal Investigators(s) :
Snyder, Stephanie 
Research Station : Northern Research Station (NRS)
Year : 2012
Highlight ID : 60


Participation in outdoor recreation in the United States is increasing while the amount of public land available for recreation has remained largely static. Access to private rural lands has been advocated as a means of alleviating recreational pressures on public lands. Using the Forest Service's National Woodland Owner Survey, Forest Service scientists examined several questions:

  1. How prevalent is public recreational access on family forest land
  2. What factors influence whether a family forest owner allows public access
  3. Do regional differences exist in the supply of public access

The scientists found that the provision of public recreational access was modest, with 15 percent of respondents allowing it. Factors positively correlated with public access included owning more forest land, being a resident owner, owning an associated farm or ranch, participating in leasing or timber management, and having a management plan. Negative factors included posting the land, having privacy concerns, owning land for hunting, and being an older or more educated owner

Compared with northern region landowners, southern region landowners were less likely to provide public access, and Rocky Mountain region landowners were also more likely to provide public access. These results raise the question of whether family forest landowners are aware of or responsive to Government-sponsored incentive programs that are designed to promote public access to private lands.