In June, the USDA announced the approval of eight additional states and one tribal government to participate in the Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program (VPA-HIP).
The VPA-HIP grant program encourages private landowners to provide public access to their lands for wildlife-dependant recreational opportunities, including fishing and hunting.
California, Georgia, Hawaii, Montana, New Hampshire, Texas, Virginia and Wyoming will join Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Utah, Washington and Wisconsin as states participating in the VPA-HIP program.
Also participating are the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation. The total amount of VPA-HIP funds to be obligated in 2011 is $17.8 million with $4.6 million of that total being allocated as part of the June 2011 announcement.
The VPA-HIP program expands existing efforts or develops new initiatives to encourage owners and operators of privately held farm, ranch and forest land to voluntarily provide public access for the enjoyment of wildlife-dependent recreation, including hunting or fishing, in exchange for financial incentives or other assistance under programs implemented by state or tribal governments.
VPA-HIP is a competitive grants program that is only available to state and tribal governments. Funding may be used to expand existing public access programs, create new public access programs or provide incentives to improve wildlife habitat on enrolled lands.
Up to $50 million is authorized by the 2008 Farm Bill through VPA-HIP through fiscal year 2012. State and tribal grant recipients use the federal funding to provide additional landowner incentives or assistance in order to increase the number of acres available for public access.
For more information on VPA-HIP, visit http://www.fsa.usda.gov/vpa