Program to Increase Wisconsin Lands for Hunting, Fishing and Trapping Enrolls 30,000 Acres

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Voluntary Public Access program expands into 12 new counties

Since becoming available in August 2011, Wisconsin landowners have enrolled more than 30,000 acres in a program intended to increase the amount of land available for public hunting, fishing, trapping, and wildlife observation. Now the state is expanding the program into 12 additional Wisconsin counties.

The Voluntary Public Access program provides incentive payments to private landowners who voluntarily open up their land for public access. Grassland, wetland, forestland, and in some cases, agriculture land, are eligible. Land enrolled in conservation programs such as the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement (SAFE), Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP), and Managed Forest Law (MFL) may also be eligible under VPA.

“We are excited to expand into additional counties,” said Melissa Keenan, who coordinates the program for the Department of Natural Resources. “The expansion gives private landowners the opportunity to earn additional income by leasing their land public access.”

The program is being expanded into Columbia, Sauk, Juneau, Adams, Waushara, Marquette, Green Lake, Kewaunee, Jackson, Clark, Polk and Barron counties.

Funding for the Voluntary Public Access program was authorized under the 2008 Farm Bill and Wisconsin received $1.9 million to implement it. Annual payment rates are based on the type of land (agriculture land at $3 per acre, grassland/wetland at $10 per acre, and forest land at $15 per acre). Lease lengths are up to two and a half years. An upfront lump sum payment would be made at the beginning of the contract. Priority will be given parcels greater than 40 acres in size with at least 25 percent usable cover and that are located near properties currently open to public hunting and/or fishing.

Under state statutes, 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 information about the program or to find VPA properties open to public access, visit dnr.wi.gov and search “VPA.”