Enthusiasts of the great outdoors, from hunters to bird-watchers, may benefit from a $11.76 million grant, to be distributed among 17 states.
Distribution of the Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program (VPA-HIP), also known as “Open Fields”, grant monies, part of the 2008 U.S. Farm Bill, was announced by U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack October 4.
A competitive grant program, VPA-HIP owners and operators of privately held land – such as farm ground and ranches – receive incentives to open their land for public, wildlife-geared recreation. The grant money is for programs “implemented by state or tribal governments,” said a United States Department of Agriculture/Farm Service Agency VPA-HIP fact sheet. Funds may be used to help participating landowners with technical or conservation services, or provide rental payments, stated a USDA news release.
Some nature-lovers have noted a scarcity of public locations for hunting and other outdoor-related opportunities. Pheasants Forever – an organization which supports and initiates the conservation of wildlife – has supported “Open Fields”. A news release from Pheasants Forever lamented the lack of locations to hunt, as well as the difficulty in finding quality hunting habitats.
Secretary Vilsack said in the aforementioned news release that this could help with lacking outdoor recreation locations. “VIP-HIP will help achieve conservation goals and increase opportunities for hunting, fishing and other outdoor recreation.”
Because states pitch proposals in their grants, they have a high degree of control over the award. Open Fields can aid states’ existing programs.
The previously mentioned USDA/FSA fact sheet contended there are shortcomings the 26 states’ existing public access programs for activities like hunting and fishing need assistance.
“The majority of the existing programs have limited scope and budgets,” it stated.
Benefits – including economic ones – could be felt at local levels, in addition to state levels.
“The goals of existing programs include providing access for wildlife-associated recreation, wildlife management, helping local economies that depend on revenue from hunters, and encouraging conservation,” the USDA/FSA fact sheet said. “VPA-HIP will help states and tribal governments address many issues that can greatly increase access and recreational experiences.”
States awarded grants include Kansas, Nebraska, Oregon and Pennsylvania. The 17 states were selected out of an applicant pool of 28 applications. To see a full list of all 17 recipients, along with their award amounts, go to the USDA’s related news release.
Up to $50 million is up for grabs until fiscal year (FY) 2012, states the USDA/FSA fact sheet. The Farm Service Agency projects to open the application process for FY 2011 in late fall 2010, pending a technicality.
“USDA Announces Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program Grants: Release No. 0503.10”, United States Department of Agriculture, http://www.usda.gov/wps/portal/usda/!ut/p/c5/lZHNDoIwDIAfqR0gw6MyAoQhHPgRLgYNEgKCB4Lh7cV4EA_G0l2W9Fv7dYUc5tMVY10VQ913RQtHyPVTaPhJIiOV4T5i6Jq-w4QQzAwR0teLJRFbM-GFGndtgejxdx5_xA7h4PS3EjLI-aeKzaU597HkNggiBYMNZG1ZFZcJ4u4PqpNRm15VV8ioRhcwOF0A6QIaXWDFZ9FdAzqqrVjs11j3prmaajvKMjWGzXlaXB9P0QJq2g!!/dl3/d3/L0lJSklna2tra0EhIS9JTmpBQU15QUJFUkNKS28hLzRGR2dzbzBWdnphOTJBZyEvN19QOE1WVkxUMzFHN0xDMElDRUw5T09UMjBPNS9zYS5yZXRyaWV2ZWNvbnRlbnQ!/?PC_7_P8MVVLT31G7LC0ICEL9OOT20O5005915_contentid=2010%2f10%2f0503.xml&PC_7_P8MVVLT31G7LC0ICEL9OOT20O5005915_parentnav=LATEST_RELEASES&PC_7_P8MVVLT31G7LC0ICEL9OOT20O5005915_navid=NEWS_RELEASE#7_P8MVVLT31G7LC0ICEL9OOT20O5
“Fact Sheet: Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program (VPA-HIP)”, United States Department of Agriculture/Farm Service Agency, http://www.fsa.usda.gov/Internet/FSA_File/vpa_hip_factsht.pdf
“More Hunting and Habitat Coming to 17 States Thanks to Open Fields Program,” Pheasants Forever, http://www.pheasantsforever.org/page/1/PressReleaseViewer.jsp?pressReleaseId=15700