Taken from Oct Issue Iowa Outdoors magazine
Local pheasant hunters and farmers received some good news this week when U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced Iowa was one of 17 states to share more than $11.75 million in Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program (VPA-HIP) grants.
Iowa will receive $1.5 million over three years to help fund grass and forb seeding, tree and shrub plantings, burning, disking, spraying, interseeding, food plots, edge feathering, timber stand improvement and wetland restoration on private lands. In return, landowners agree to allow public access to their land for a period of three to 10 years. State officials feel the grant should give a boost to Iowa’s ground-nesting birds struggling after four straight years of wet springs, record snowfalls, poor nesting success and low winter survival rates.
“We think this will be a great tool for helping recover Iowa’s weather-decimated pheasant numbers, at the same time providing public access to well-managed private lands,” said Todd Bogenschutz, DNR upland game biologist. “It’s a shot in the arm at a time when hunters-and pheasants alike-really needed it.”
Along with pheasants and hunters, the program is expected to benefit other wildlife and outdoor recreationalists. According to the USDA, the VPA-HIP will provide incentives to owners and operators of privately held farm, ranch and forest land to voluntarily give hunters, fishermen, hikers, bird watchers and other recreational outdoor enthusiasts access to land for their enjoyment.
“This administration is committed to preserving and enhancing the great conservation legacy of our nation’s hunters and anglers for the benefit of current and future generations,” Vilsack said. “VPA-HIP will help achieve conservation goals and increase opportunities for hunting, fishing and other outdoor recreation by providing greater access to privately held lands and we are excited to assist these 17 states in developing new and enhancing existing public access and habitat incentive programs.”
Iowa was one of 28 states vying for the grants. Iowa’s program is expected to be in place by early next year.
“Right now our focus is finalizing the details of the program,” said Kelly Smith, DNR Private Lands Program Coordinator. “We will likely have the program in place by early spring.”
For more information on VPA-HIP and other FSA programs, www.fsa.usda.gov