MADISON – The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has received $1.3 million for continued funding of the Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program – these funds were authorized through the 2014 Farm Bill and are administered and provided by U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service.
For those interested in making 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. Currently, the program provides over 38,000 acres for wildlife-related recreation.
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, agricultural land. Land enrolled in conservation programs like the Conservation Reserve Program, State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement, and Managed Forest Law is eligible for VPA-HIP enrollment.
Annual lease payment rates based on land type are as follows:
• agricultural land – $3 per acre;
• grassland/wetland – $10 per acre; and
• forestland – $15 per acre.
Annual lease payments are completed in a lump sum payment at the beginning of the contract. Priority status is given to parcels greater than 40 acres in size with at least 25 percent usable cover and near properties currently open to public hunting and/or fishing.
VPA-HIP enrollees will also receive technical assistance for habitat enhancement practices, and landowners who complete recommended practices will be eligible for habitat-based financial incentive payments, in addition to the lease payments.
Interested landowners can contact Anne Reis, DNR VPA-HIP Coordinator, at 608-266-5463 or via email at Anne.Reis@wisconsin.gov.
DNR regional public access liaisons stationed in southern Wisconsin, along with Wisconsin’s Farm Bill Biologists, will coordinate public access leases and a habitat plan for interested landowners:
• Hartford – Justin Blindert, 262-224-9884;
• Baldwin – Ryan Goodmanson, 715-690-7278; and
• Fitchburg – Ryan Peat, 920-647-6781.
Under state statute, landowners are generally immune from liability for injuries received by individuals recreating on their lands. Also, the department agrees to provide compensation for damages to property or crops that occur as a result of opening the land to public access.
For more general information regarding VPA-HIP, visit dnr.wi.gov and search keyword “VPA”.