Public access opportunities for hunting and fishing on private lands will be expanded thanks to a grant awarded to the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks (GFP).
The $2.175 million grant was awarded through the 2020 Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program (VPA-HIP) administered by the United States Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and was authorized under the 2018 Farm Bill.
In South Dakota, VPA-HIP funding will be used to offer up-front signing incentive payments to landowners for opening their lands to public hunting access for multiple years. Lands already enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program, Wetlands Reserve Easements or other conservation programs that create undisturbed habitat or lands containing high demand big game hunting opportunity will be eligible to receive the VPA-HIP incentive payment.
GFP also plans to use VPA-HIP funding to expand public fishing access on private lands. It will extend existing public fishing access leases and add new public fishing access sites to waters on private land. The VPA-HIP funding may also be used to create new boat ramps on private land to provide improved public water access to established fisheries. These sites will not only improve public fishing access, but public access for other recreational watercraft to use these waters.
“Over 80% of South Dakota is privately-owned,” said Mark Norton, GFP Farm Bill and Hunting Access Coordinator. “Obtaining access to private lands is very important to hunters and anglers, and to the great outdoor legacy we enjoy here.”
In 2019, over 1,500 landowners participated in GFP public hunting or fishing access programs statewide, providing public access on more than 1.4 million land acres, 31 ponds and lakes, and more than 100 miles of stream.
“This VPA-HIP award will allow GFP to continue to expand access to quality habitat and provide more places in the state for hunters and anglers to recreate,” Norton said.
“It is exciting to be able to partner with the NRCS to add an aquatics component to the VPA-HIP award,” said Jason Jungwirth, GFP Aquatic Habitat and Access Coordinator. “Opening waters on private land will provide added recreational opportunities across the state. We look forward to working with NRCS to implement these funds on some of the best habitat in South Dakota.”
South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks provides sustainable outdoor recreational opportunities through responsible management of our state's parks, fisheries and wildlife by fostering partnerships, cultivating stewardship and safely connecting people with the outdoors.