Minnesota’s Walk-In Access program surpassed the 30,000-acre mark of private lands open to public hunting this fall.
By Tanner Bruse, Ag & Conservation Programs Manager in Minnesota
In a conservation world filled with acronyms it is easy to get lost in the alphabet soup. A well-known acronym in Minnesota, identified by a hard-to-miss neon sign, is WIA or Walk-In Access. Hidden behind the bright sign is another acronym important to our outdoor adventures and one that should be remembered when discussions around the Federal Farm Bill occur: VPA-HIP.
Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program (VPA-HIP) through the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is a financial tool combined with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and your license dollars to create WIA, which provides an additional incentive for private landowners and farmers to open their habitat for public use. “Through VPA-HIP and the partnership with the state, these WIA sites are providing multiple benefits for the public, wildlife and landowners,” says Troy Daniell, Minnesota NRCS State Conservationist.
The partnership to create quality wildlife habitat on private lands open for public hunting goes even further than the landowner, NRCS and DNR. “In coordination with local Soil and Water Conservation District staff and Pheasants Forever Farm Bill biologists, it provides boots on the ground working directly with farmers and landowners offering WIA as one of many conservation options,” says Troy Dale, Walk-In Access Coordinator for Minnesota DNR. “We’re continuing to bridge the gap between private lands conservation and public access.”
The WIA program has continued to grow in popularity, expanded habitat types into more counties, and increased to over 30,000 acres of private lands open to public access. Our ask of you? The next time you purchase a hunting license in Minnesota, say “yes” to the WIA stamp.
Support VPA-HIP in future Farm Bills. Find those bright neon signs on your next adventure. Thank the farmers and landowners who opened their land for you to use. Respect the land. And last but not least: Have fun, make memories, and be safe.
This story originally appeared in the 2021 Fall 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 Pheasants Forever member today!