Minnesota’s Walk-in Access Hunting Program Grows

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Anyone who is hunting in Minnesota this upcoming fall will be pleased to hear that the recently developed walk-in access program will be growing nearly 55 percent larger than last year. Around 14,000 acres have been enrolled this year, which adds to the already-enrolled 9,000 acres.

The state has received some funding for the program, but as of now the program will only be able to last through 2014. The Minnesota Department of Natural resources will have to find additional funding in order to continue the program after 2014. The Minnesota Legislature rejected a proposal by the DNR to apply a usage fee for the walk-in areas (similar to state park usage). “We’re pretty pleased, but we’ll have to find other ways to fund this,” said Marybeth Block, Department of Natural Resources program coordinator.

The program is offered primarily in the southwestern area of the state. Numerous landowners throughout 21 counties have participated in the program. The landowners are paid a per-acre fee for allowing public hunting on their property. Any legal game is pursuable on the properties, but pheasants tend to be the primary target for most hunters.

The program was given $2.7 million over the first three years by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s farm bill. Congress decided to cut the third year’s budget, so the budget dropped to $1.5 million. In order to keep the program going after the $1.5 million is spent, the Minnesota Legislature transferred $616,000 from the venison donation program. This transfer resulted in an additional $5 cost to the nonresident hunting license walk-in program fee.

The income for venison donation program has gone beyond its expenses, so the program will be able to comfortably transfer budget money to the walk-in program.

Another way that the program will be funded is through donations by the people. When hunters buy their small game or deer hunting license they will be asked if they want to donate $1, $3 or $5 to the walk-in program. This is similar to what they have done in the past for the venison program. In 2011, hunters donated a total of around $19,000. Officials hope that hunters will be willing to donate to the walk-in access program to help create a successful, long-term program.

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