Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced a new effort to encourage owners and operators of privately held farm, ranch and forest land to voluntarily provide public access to land for the enjoyment of wildlife-dependent recreation, including hunting or fishing, under programs implemented by state or tribal governments.
“This administration is committed to preserving and enhancing the great conservation legacy of our nation’s hunters and anglers to benefit current and future generations,” said Vilsack. “This program will not only help achieve conservation goals, but also increase opportunities for hunting, fishing and other outdoor recreation by providing greater access to privately held lands for wildlife-dependent recreation.”
The Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program (VPA-HIP) is a competitive grants program that is only available for state and tribal governments. Applications for grant funding may be made through the federal government’s grants portal – www.grants.gov. VPA-HIP grant funding may be used to expand existing public access programs or create new public access programs, or provide incentives to improve wildlife habitat on enrolled lands.
Twenty-six states have public access programs for hunting, fishing and other related activities. These programs provide rental payments and other incentives, such as technical or conservation services to landowners who, in return, allow the public to hunt, fish or otherwise recreate on their land.
Up to $50 million is available through VPA-HIP through Fiscal Year 2012. State and tribal grant recipients will be able to use the funding to provide participants with higher rental payments, and provide technical and conservation services which will increase the number of acres enrolled for public access.
Funding priority will be given to proposals that will use the grant money in a public access program to address these objectives:
- Maximize participation by landowners;
- Ensure that land enrolled in the program has appropriate wildlife habitat;
- Provide incentives to strengthen wildlife habitat improvement efforts on Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) land, if available;
- Supplement funding and services from other federal, state, tribal government or private resources that is provided in the form of cash or in-kind services; and
- Provide information to the public about the location of public access land.
A state’s grant amount will be reduced by 25 percent if opening dates for migratory bird hunting in the state are not consistent for residents and non-residents. Nothing in the VPA-HIP preempts liability laws that may apply to activities on any property related to grants made in this program.
For more information on VPA-HIP and other FSA programs, visit https://www.fsa.usda.gov.
Posted by Kaci Switzer