A Program and Partnership that Delivers Access and Habitat on Private Lands

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Left to right, Farm Bill biologist Shane Weinberg and Holly Shutt, with Iowa DNR Private Lands Biologist Kevin Andersen, take a break for a selfie while signing a new IHAP site in southeastern Iowa.

Access to public lands for hunting has long been a limiting factor for outdoor recreation opportunities to residents and nonresidents alike

By Josh Divan, Iowa State Coordinator

In a state like Iowa that is 97 percent privately owned, it should come as no surprise that access to public lands for hunting has long been a limiting factor for outdoor recreation opportunities to residents and nonresidents alike.

That appetite for increased access to high-quality habitat open to public hunting was the driving force behind the Iowa Department of Natural Resources’ (DNR) creation of the Iowa Habitat & Access Program (IHAP). This program offers private landowners the expertise of wildlife biologists paired with financial incentives to create, improve and manage wildlife habitat on their property in exchange for allowing the public access to their land for hunting. Funding for IHAP comes from the Farm Bill’s Voluntary Public Access program as well as Habitat Stamp dollars generated by hunters in Iowa.

Iowa PF’s Farm Bill biologist staff has been proud to partner with the Iowa DNR in the delivery of IHAP to Iowa’s private landowners and hunters since its launch as a pilot project in 2011. The program has grown from 7,000 acres to 36,000 acres and continues to receive high praise from hunters using the sites and from the landowners who enrolled in the program.

The success of IHAP is based on how the Iowa DNR originally designed it to deliver increased public access acres, as well as prioritize and fund projects that simultaneously create additional wildlife habitat on private lands. As a result, hunters have come to expect high-quality cover and a memorable experience when they pull up to an IHAP site.

As you begin to plan your fall hunting expeditions, consider targeting one of Iowa’s many IHAP sites. And if you get the chance, give a big THANK YOU to the landowner and the biologist who made it possible!


Josh Divan is a Pheasants Forever Iowa State Coordinator.

This story originally appeared in the 2022 Summer Issue of the Pheasants Forever Journal. If you enjoyed it and would like to be the first to read more great upland content like this, become a member today!