Habitat & Conservation  |  10/20/2021

Creating More Public Access on Private Land Through Strong Partnerships


A successful harvest on an Aberdeen Pheasant Coalition public access hunting area in South Dakota.

By Matt Morlock, South Dakota State Coordinator

Public access remains a focal priority for Pheasants Forever and its partners in South Dakota.

Since the inception of the Aberdeen Pheasant Coalition starting in 2013, and expanding to the Mitchell and Chamberlain areas shortly after, Pheasants Forever and partners have opened over 5,000 acres of private lands to public hunting.

Those acres are always connected to contracts such as CRP, which ensure they are of the highest quality when hunters roll into them in the fall. Knowing this, hunters have responded and communities like Aberdeen have seen significant increases in hunter dollars spent each fall.

Because of this success and the positive acceptance from landowners, the Pheasants Forever team in South Dakota has decided to up the ante by launching a new hunter access initiative that looks to raise enough funds to open an additional 50,000 acres in the next five years.

“One of the challenges faced by some of the interested but smaller communities was the challenge of raising funds to do something like Aberdeen, Mitchell and Chamberlain,” says Chris McLeland, vice president of conservation delivery for PF. “The South Dakota team challenged themselves to raise funds and through their network of Farm Bill biologists go out and open up more acres of high-quality habitat in other areas for visiting sportsmen and women.”

Landowners enrolled in this program receive a one-time payment from PF of $25 per acre, which will be in addition to funds matched by South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks through their Walk-in-Access Program. Through the Walk-in-Access Program, enrolled landowners receive another one-time $25- to $50-per-acre bonus payment plus an additional annual rental payment between $1- to $6-per-ace.

If you are a landowner interested in enrolling your property or are interested in donating to the initiative, please contact a South Dakota Farm Bill biologist near you. Find one at sdpheasantsforever.org/biologists.

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!