LAPEER — For many hunters, just finding a place to hunt is problematic. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources announced Dec. 8 that it has been awarded a $1.2 million Voluntary Public Access-Hunting Incentive Program (VPA-HIP) federal grant to enhance the state’s Hunting Access Program with an emphasis on Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program land, habitat restoration and more opportunities for youth and apprentice hunting.
“This is great news for hunters who may not currently have access to hunting land,” said Mike Parker, coordinator of the DNR’s Hunting Access Program. “This grant will allow us to increase hunting opportunities in areas of Michigan where access is limited, restore wildlife habitat, and further our priorities of preserving our state’s rich hunting heritage.”
Michigan’s Hunting Access Program provides financial incentive to landowners in southern Michigan and a portion of the eastern Upper Peninsula who are willing to allow hunters to hunt on their lands. Hunting Access Program lands must be at least 40 acres in size, and payments to landowners increase with better habitat quality and the variety of hunting allowed.
The VPA-HIP grant will allow the DNR Wildlife Division to use a multifaceted approach to expand the Hunting Access Program with a goal of increasing the acres and number of sites enrolled in the program. Currently, there are 15,710 acres on 135 properties. The DNR seeks to expand to more than 24,000 acres on 180 properties by 2017, placing an emphasis on Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program land and increasing youth and apprentice hunter opportunities.
Funding also will be used to enhance wildlife habitat on 600 enrolled acres. Likely habitat restoration activities include grassland enhancement, food plots and invasive species control. The DNR will promote the Hunting Access Program to landowners through conservation districts and other conservation partners.
For more information about the Hunting Access Program, visit www.michigan.gov/ hap. To learn more about the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program, visit www.michigan.gov/mda, click on farming, and then environment.
As part of the grant process, the DNR and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service is seeking public comment on an environmental assessment related to the use of grant funds for habitat restoration activities. The public notice with details of the environmental assessment and public comment process is available in Word and PDF formats on the U.S. Department of Agriculture website.