Habitat & Conservation  |  05/09/2024

Public Access to Habitat Program Shatters 10,000-Acre Goal


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PATH program quickly moves to year two of funding for habitat & access on private lands

Pheasants Forever and its partners are proud to announce the fulfillment of 11,686 new public access acres in South Dakota. The Public Access to Habitat (PATH) initiative, announced in August 2023 with the objective of accelerating statewide enrollment in conservation programs while bolstering participation in South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks’ (GFP) Walk-In Area (WIA) program, shattered the 10,000-acre enrollment goal in seven months.  

“PATH had all the ingredients to be a major success right out of the gate, and our enrollment during the first seven months of the program solidified its value to landowners, wildlife, hunters and rural communities in the pheasant capital,” said Matt Gottlob, Pheasants Forever’s state coordinator in South Dakota. “Through our tremendous partnerships with onX Hunt and South Dakota GFP, we’ve already surpassed our goal for 2024. It’s time to now focus on the next 10,000 acres of quality habitat and access.” 

Additive to the current GFP Walk-In Area program and administered in a similar manner, PATH provides an additional sign-up incentive of up to $25 per acre, paid in advance, in return for 10 years of high-quality habitat and access on private lands. Landowners work directly with biologists from Pheasants Forever or GFP for site evaluation and implementation, following approval from a review panel. When combined with other financial incentives (signing bonus and payment for Walk-in Access + conservation program payment), PATH enrollments pay landowners a competitive rate for a decade of habitat and access stewardship.

The inaugural year was fully funded at $250K through national sponsor onX Hunt.  

“Without habitat, we have no wild birds, and without wild birds, there’s no need for public hunting access,” said onX Hunt Wing shooting Manager, Ben Brettingen. “PATH is an innovative solution that addresses three issues: habitat, public access, and rural economic development. The program’s success couldn’t be achieved without Pheasant’s Forever’s hardworking team of Farm Bill biologists, precision agricultural specialists, and the vision of their leadership team. onX Hunt is proud to be a part of PATH, and we believe this program model will fundamentally shift the way we look at public access on private lands for the future.” 

By sustaining additional acreage in high-quality habitat, Pheasants Forever’s PATH initiative also provides solutions for the nation’s most complex sustainability issues including improved biodiversity, soil health, water stewardship, and rural economic development— while simultaneously prioritizing maximum impact for pheasants, quail, and other upland gamebirds.   

For more information about the Public Access to Habitat initiative with examples of funding for landowners, click here to visit the webpage. For landowners interested in enrollment opportunities, find your nearest biologist by visiting pheasantsforever.org/findaBiologist.