PUBLIC LAND should be for public use. Sounds like an obvious statement, doesn't it? But consider how often government acquires land but does not allow public access. It's not a given right.
In small measure, that debate is taking place on the Eastern Shore over hunting privileges on some 58,000 acres of land that the state is acquiring. At issue is whether hunting in the forests and wetlands should be reserved for the clubs that now lease the land or opened to the general public.
The land was part of the vast Delmarva holdings ofChesapeake Forest Products Co. until last year. The paper company leased the hunting rights to private clubs, with agreements that extend into next year.
The state Department of Natural Resources is holding hearings to decide on a future management plan for the properties. The plan is to allow continued hunting on much of the land.
The issue quickly raised was whether hunting privileges should be open to all, since the property is state land that was purchased with taxpayer funds.
The hunting clubs argue that they have maintained and cleaned up these grounds over the years. The state would likely not pay for such services. Therefore, the clubs should be allowed to continue hunting leases on the land.
The first considerations, in any case, must be the protection of the environment and public safety. Activity on the state's holdings affects adjacent properties, as well.
Both sides have a legitimate claim on use of the resource. A compromise is in order, to allow clubs and nonclub hunters to use the properties.