The Department of Fish and Game (DFG) secured a $500,000 federal grant to support the creation of additional public hunting and fishing opportunities. The grant, through California’s Shared Habitat Alliance for Recreational Enhancement (SHARE) Program, will allow public access for wildlife-dependent recreation on private lands.
“This significant grant funding is the shot in the arm that the SHARE Program needs to finally expand beyond a mere pilot or regional program,” stated Mark Hennelly, Vice President of the California Outdoor Heritage Alliance (COHA). “Many new and exciting hunting opportunities will be made available to the public as a direct result of the department’s successful efforts to secure federal funds.”
DFG will use the federal funds, which were originally authorized through the “Open Fields” provision of the 2008 Farm Bill, to compensate participating landowners and nonprofit organizations helping to administer the SHARE hunts. Hunters participating in SHARE will still remain a key funding source for the SHARE Program, along with hunting licenses, stamp and tag funds.
“DFG should be praised and congratulated for their efforts in securing these funds, which will increase public hunting opportunities on private lands in California,” stated John Carlson Jr., President of California Waterfowl. “In most instances, the properties enrolled in the SHARE Program have never been available for public use. Now, private land in California will be made available for current and future generations.”
The SHARE Program was created by California Waterfowl-sponsored state legislation in 2003 to encourage private landowners to voluntarily open their properties to hunting, fishing and other wildlife-dependent recreation. The bill was authored by then Assembly Member Tom Harman. Due to limited funding, for the last several years, the SHARE Program has relied heavily on the assistance of nonprofit conservation groups like California Waterfowl and COHA, and has focused mostly on waterfowl and upland game bird hunts in select areas of the state. However, DFG has recently been able to secure several wild pig and elk hunts.
Programs similar to SHARE have opened up millions of acres of land to public access across at least 18 other states. These programs have been well received by both hunters and landowners alike, and have fostered improved relations between sportsmen and the agricultural and ranching communities.
“We are excited for this opportunity to expand the SHARE program,” said John McCamman, Director of DFG. “This funding will allow us to create public access to additional lands for wildlife-dependent recreational activities.”
With the new funding, the SHARE Program is expected to expand over time into a statewide program with a wide variety of game bird and big game hunting opportunities. In particular, the program should provide improved hunter access to wild pig and wild turkey populations, two species for which there are currently only limited public hunting opportunities available.