Federal Grant Program Looks To Open Up Public Access To Private Land

Oct 1, 2019

The Natural Resource Conservation Service, which is part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is asking for grant proposals that aim to open up access to private land.

It's called the Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program (VPA-HIP), and the goal is for these groups to work with landowners to make their land available for activities like hunting and fishing.

Only state governments and tribes are eligible.

Brian Jensen, acting state resource conservationist for the Natural Resource Conservation Service, said the program is a potential opportunity for the public to get access to more land-locked public lands in the state.

"I think in Wyoming, in particular, and the West in particular, a program like this has the potential to open up access to a lot more acres. That even more acres that would be under contract with Game and Fish or something like that because of the juxtaposition of other state and federal land," he said.

Jensen said the program does like to expand on existing programs, like adding more acres of private land in an existing program or expanding outreach efforts.

He said there are programs like this in the state already.

"The Wyoming Game and Fish Department has a public access program. They have hunter management areas, walk-in hunting areas, walk-in fishing areas, those types of things. They've actually received the VPA grant in the past, so that's a perfect example locally of some of this money at work in our state," he said.

Jensen said opportunities for programs like this are likely in the eastern part of the state where there's less federal or state public land, which can make hunting and fishing more difficult.

The VPA-HIP program likes to see participants use the funds to also improve the public access areas for wildlife habitat, Jensen said.

The program is funded through the USDA and its made $50 million available total. A single award will be up to $3 million.

Have a question about this story? Contact the reporter, Catherine Wheeler, at cwheel11@uwyo.edu.