Landowners can be paid to provide public hunting access
The South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks offers several programs to provide hunting access to the public. One of those programs is the Walk-in Area Program. The Walk-in Area Program works to maintain South Dakota’s rich hunting heritage by providing public hunting access to privately owned lands that contain valuable wildlife habitat. The landowner opens the land to free public hunting, (foot-traffic only) in exchange for a small payment and immunity from non-negligent liability. Landowners with land enrolled in permanent habitat conservation programs like the Conservation Reserve Program can receive an additional upfront bonus payment by opening it to public hunting for multiple years.
The primary focus is securing permanent habitats like CRP, wetlands with standing emergent vegetation, abandoned farm sites or any other permanent non-woody habitat left undisturbed during the contract year. GFP will be paying $1per acre base access payment plus $5 per acre bonus payment for permanent habitat left undisturbed during the contract year.
In an effort to gain access to more high quality habitat, an additional signing bonus will be offered to landowners who sign a walk-in area contract on undisturbed habitat land enrolled in a USDA conservation program (i.e. CRP, WRP, CSP, EQIP). Landowners choosing to participate in the conservation program signing bonus will receive either a $2.50 or $5/acre rate for each hunting season of the WIA contract depending on the land’s location in the state. This will be a one-time, upfront payment in the first year of the WIA contract. Landowners are required to sign a WIA contract for the length of their CRP contract to receive the signing bonus.
As a basic example, if you had 160 acres of CRP enrolled in the program, you would earn $160 for the base access payment ($1 per acre base times 160 acres) and you would earn $800 for undisturbed permanent habitat ($5per acre times 160 acres) for a total payment of $960 in a typical year.
Under this same example, if you had 10 years remaining on the life of your CRP contract and you chose to participate in the signing bonus, you would receive a one-time payment of $4,000 or $8,000 depending on your location throughout the state (number of acres (160) times fixed rate (2.5 or 5.0) times number of years left on CRP contract (10)).
For over 25 years, GFP has worked cooperatively with landowners to provide hunting access on privately owned lands.
To enroll land into the Walk-in Area Program, the landowner must agree to allow free, unlimited access by the public without having to obtain prior permission. Also, they must offer land with sufficient permanent habitat (primarily CRP or other permanent vegetation) to provide reasonable opportunity to harvest game animals. Landowners must also enroll a contiguous tract of at least 80 acres in size. Smaller tracts may also qualify depending on the hunting opportunity. On top of that, landowners must offer land where they hold exclusive hunting rights. Lastly, landowners must agree to reasonably protect the offered land from degradation. If the wildlife habitat on the contracted land is degraded, the walk-in area payment will be reduced in equal proportion to the amount of habitat removed.
If you have additional questions regarding the Walk-in Area Program, please contact your local South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks office or your local conservation officer.
As a reminder, the 2019 hunting/fishing/trapping licenses expired on January 31, 2020. Please remember to purchase your new license.