The National Deer Association (NDA) welcomes the introduction of the Voluntary Public Access Improvement Act in the House of Representatives by Reps. Debbie Dingell (D-MI) and Dusty Johnson (R-SD). The House introduction joins a Senate companion bill to reauthorize the Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program (VPA-HIP) at $150 million. This highly successful state and tribal-led private lands access program is a top priority for the NDA in the upcoming Farm Bill.
VPA-HIP is the only federal program designed to incentivize public recreational access on private lands. Since its reauthorization in the 2018 Farm Bill, the USDA has invested $49 million through 27 state and tribal wildlife agencies to expand public access and enhance wildlife habitat. State and tribal wildlife agencies design access and habitat improvement programs to reflect local needs, land use, and landowner objectives, and enrollments are voluntary and incentive based. As a result, demand for the program continues to grow, and the funds authorized by the 2018 Farm Bill were fully distributed in just a few years.
VPA-HIP is an incredibly important program for hunters, opening nearly one million private acres to public hunting, fishing, and outdoor recreation over its lifetime. The Voluntary Public Access Improvement Act of 2023 recognizes the growing interest in the program and the importance of maintaining quality hunting access across the country. The bill’s $150-million authorization will ensure expanded and continued enrollment in VPA-HIP throughout the life of the 2023 Farm Bill, benefiting hunters, landowners, and local communities. The NDA is proud to endorse this legislation.