Want more public hunting land to explore in your state? Well, you just might see that wish granted.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has announced $20 million in grants as part of the Farm Bill that will help provide additional public access in partnership with nine state agencies.
“The funds we are announcing today will empower state and tribal governments to partner with landowners in their areas to enhance outdoor recreation opportunities, protect at-risk wildlife, and spur new opportunities for rural businesses,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “Partnerships are the key to locally-led, innovative use of private lands, and this is the latest example of the Obama Administration and USDA’s successful efforts to connect public and private partners for long-term conservation results.”
The funding, which is provided through the Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program provision of the Farm Bill, will be administered by the Natural Resources Conservation Conservation Service.
Here’s a rundown on the initial projects approved for funding:
Arizona: $2.2 million to the Arizona Game and Fish Department to expand its public access program.
Georgia: 994,000 to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources to expand its Wildlife Management Area program.
Illinois: $1.7 million for the Illinois DNR to increase its public access program.
Iowa: $3 million to enhance 22,000 acres of wildlife habitat and open an area to public hunting.
Michigan: $1.2 million to boost acreage enrolled in the state’s Hunter Access Program by 8,000 acres.
Montana: $490,000 to Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks to work with 150 private landowners to open access to 48,000 acres of public lands for hunting and fishing.
Pennsylvania: $6 million to the Pennsylvania Game Commission to expand its public access to private lands program.
South Dakota: $1.5 million to South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks to increase public access to private lands in the southeast part of the state.
Texas: $2.4 million to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department to increase availability of public land for hunting and to improve wildlife populations by working with private landowners.
Competition for this initial round of grant funding was fierce with some 25 state agencies and two Tribes requesting a total of $62 million. A second round of funding will be announced this Fall (though dollar amounts were not yet available), creating even more Open Country.