USDA Announces State Public Access and Habitat Incentive Grants

USDA Announces State Public Access and Habitat Incentive Grants

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently announced that it will invest $20 million to partner with 15 state fish and wildlife agencies under the Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program (VPA-HIP), according to the Wildlife Management Institute. The grants, funded through the Farm Bill, support state agency efforts to improve and increase wildlife habitat and public access for hunting, fishing and other recreational opportunities on privately-owned lands.

"Our partnerships with state governments will help them work with interested landowners to enhance hunting and fishing and other wildlife-dependent recreation, to enhance wildlife habitat, and to protect wildlife species and encourage new opportunities for local businesses," said USDA Secretary, Tom Vilsack. "These projects are excellent examples of USDA's successful efforts to connect public and private partners for long-term conservation gains that benefit sportsmen, wildlife, private land owners, and the public."

The selected state agencies will encourage owners and operators of privately held farm, ranch or forest land in their respective states to voluntarily open their land for wildlife-dependent recreation. In addition, the states work with the private landowners to improve fish and wildlife habitat on that land. USDA's Natural Resources Conservation (NRCS) administers VPA-HIP and places highest priority on projects that increase private land acreage available for public use, offer a public access program that gains widespread acceptance among landowners, make special efforts to reach historically underserved or socially disadvantaged landowners, ensure appropriate wildlife habitat is located on enrolled land, strengthen existing wildlife habitat improvement efforts, follow NRCS conservation practice standards for VPA-HIP habitat improvement activities, or inform the public about the locations of existing and new lands where public access is available. Projects can span up to three years.

View more detailed information about the 2015 awardees. (pmr)

September 14, 2015