NRCS And DNR Partnership Promotes Voluntary Public Access And Habitat Incentive Program
Submitted to OnFocus – The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has received $1.9 million dollars for continued funding of the Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program (VPA-HIP) and Turkey Hunting Access Program (THAP). Funds were authorized under the 2018 Farm Bill and are administered and provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service(NRCS).
For those interested in making their land available for public access, the VPA-HIP program provides opportunities to increase public access for quality hunting, fishing and wildlife observation on private lands.
“NRCS is excited to continue this great partnership with the DNR to provide additional outdoor opportunities on private lands,” said Greg Kidd, USDA NRCS assistant state conservationist for easements.
Together in 2020, the Voluntary Public Access and Turkey Hunting Access programs provided over 38,000 acres of public access on private lands in Wisconsin. The renewed partnership between NRCS and the DNR will increase and enhance the wildlife-dependent recreation footprint of both access programs.
“We’re excited to collaborate once again with our USDA partners to expand the hunting, fishing, birdwatching and all the other outdoor recreation activities that VPA and THAP offer in Wisconsin,” said Keith Warnke, administrator for the DNR’s Division of Fish, Wildlife and Parks.
Financial incentives in the form of annual leases are available for private landowners who open their property to public hunting, fishing, trapping and wildlife observation. Eligible land types include grassland, wetland, forestland and in some cases, agriculture land. Land enrolled in conservation programs such as the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement (SAFE), Managed Forest Law (MFL) in closed status and Wetland Reserve Easements (WRP/WRE) are eligible for enrollment.
Annual lease payment rates are based on the land type (agricultural land is $3 per acre, grassland wetland is $10 to $20 per acre and forest land is $15 per acre) and are made in the form of an upfront lump sum payment at the beginning of the contract. Priority will be given to parcels greater than 40 acres in size with at least 25% usable cover and near properties currently open to public hunting and/or fishing.
Landowners who enroll in VPA-HIP will also receive technical assistance for habitat enhancement practices. Landowners who complete recommended practices will be eligible for habitat-based financial incentive payments, in addition to the lease payments. Regional Public Access Liaisons stationed in Baldwin, Janesville, Hartford and Wisconsin Rapids along with Wisconsin’s Farm Bill Biologists will coordinate a habitat plan for interested landowners.
Under state statutes, landowners are generally immune from liability for injuries received by individuals recreating on their lands. The department agrees to provide compensation for damages to property or crops that occur as a result of opening the land to public access.
Interested landowners should call Cody Strong, VPA-HIP coordinator, at 608-800-1343 for more information or visit dnr.wisconsin.gov.
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