Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center
The New Mexico Breeding Bird Atlas Project
You must ask permission for access before beginning your survey on any private land. The big problem isn't access, it's asking. Rarely are atlasers denied access to land, and if they are, it is usually for a good reason. Some landowners have legitimate concerns about livestock, newly planted fields, or earlier encounters with trespassers. These concerns should be respected, and remember, never trespass. Finding out who owns the land and asking permission is usually easy to do. If your block is close to Bureau of Land Management or US Forest Service lands, agency landownership maps will indicate private land adjacent to public lands and the County Assessor of Fees will have maps of current land ownership.
When you first approach the landowner, your words and actions will make a big difference in how you are received and whether you get permission. Be sure to contact the landowner well before the day on which you intend to begin atlasing. Identify yourself as a volunteer with the New Mexico Breeding Bird Atlas before making the request. Once the atlas project is explained, most people are interested enough to ask you questions and share information about birds on their property. Arrive at a reasonable hour and don't bring a big group of people. If talking in person to a landowner, offer to write down your name and address as well as giving them a copy of the atlas fact sheet. Let them know why and when you want access, how many will be in your party, and give a description of your vehicle. Assure them that you will close gates, will not disturb livestock or crops, and will avoid driving on muddy roads. A thank-you note to show our appreciation after your visit will help ensure continued access. If they do refuse access, respect their rights. If the land contains an important habitat or large portion of the block, talk to your regional organizer; a different block may be assigned.