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Upland Conservation Efforts & Sportsmen’s Access Expand with Strong Farm Bill Implementation

Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program helped Minnesota launch its Walk-In Access program. Photo courtesy the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program funding helped Minnesota launch its Walk-In Access program. Photo courtesy the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever have joined conservation partners in praising an announcement from the U.S. Department of Agriculture that a Farm Bill conservation program enhancing sportsmen’s access to privately owned lands will open for enrollment.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced applications are now being accepted for new, landmark conservation initiatives created by the 2014 Farm Bill. The programs – Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program (VPA-HIP) and the Agricultural Conservation Easements Program (ACEP) – will provide up to $386 million to help farmers restore wetlands, protect working agriculture lands, support outdoor recreation activities, and boost the economy.

VPA-HIP, popularly known as “Open Fields,” offers incentives to owners and managers of private lands to open areas to public recreation, including hunting and angling. “In short, when VPA-HIP is implemented properly, it delivers!” says Dave Nomsen, vice president of government affairs for Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever. “Millions of acres of private lands have been made accessible for outdoor recreation thanks to VPA-HIP. In the past, its biggest constraint has been funding.  Up to $20 million is available this year for VPA-HIP.

“At the end of the day, sportsmen are conservationists,” stated Nomsen. “Access programs like VPA-HIP enable the recruitment of new sportsmen and the retention of existing sportsmen. This is good news for conservation. Access programs keep hunting and angling available to everyone.”

Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program

VPA-HIP is a competitive grant program that enables state and tribal governments to increase opportunities for owners and managers of private lands who want to make their land available for public recreation. Recipients can use the grant funding to create new or expand existing public access programs. These programs provide financial incentives or technical assistance, such as rental payments or wildlife habitat planning services, to owners and managers who allow public access.

Funding priority will be given to applications that propose to:

  • Maximize private lands acreage available to the public;
  • Ensure that land enrolled in the program has appropriate wildlife habitat;
  • Strengthen wildlife habitat improvement efforts;
  • Supplement funding and services from other federal or state agencies, tribes or private resources; and
  • Provide information to the public about the location of public access land.

Applications for VPA-HIP are due by June 16 and should be completed by state and tribal governments at Grants.gov. For more information, view the notice on Grants.gov or the VPA-HIP program’s website.

Field Notes are compiled by Anthony Hauck, Pheasants Forever’s Online Editor. Email Anthony at AHauck@pheasantsforever.org and follow him on Twitter @AnthonyHauckPF.

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One Response to “Upland Conservation Efforts & Sportsmen’s Access Expand with Strong Farm Bill Implementation”

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  1. Scott says:

    This is good but there is no way to tell the farmer what kind of land. What I mean is that the farmer can pick his plot of land. What that means is it could a bare plowed up field. I’ve done WIHA and ran into this problem. Am I happy about this program. YES. It’s just that bare ground really there’s no other place that you could of picked.

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