Bennet, Daines Introduce Bill to Expand Outdoor Recreation Opportunities

Washington, D.C. - U.S. Senators Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Steve Daines (R-MT) today introduced bipartisan legislation to expand opportunities for hunting, fishing, hiking, and other wildlife-dependent activities across the country.

"This program has rewarded Colorado's farmers and ranchers for providing new opportunities for the next generation of sportsmen and women and improving wildlife habitat across our state," Bennet said. "As we work on the next Farm Bill, we'll continue to prioritize funding for this successful program."

"Nothing beats spending time outdoors hunting, fishing, backpacking, it's the Montana way of life," Daines said. "This bill will strengthen Montana's outdoor recreation economy and open up more space for families and sportsmen to enjoy local wildlife."

The Voluntary Public Access Improvement Act would reauthorize and strengthen the Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program (VPA-HIP) by increasing funding from $40 million to $150 million over five years. The VPA-HIP provides competitive grants to states and tribal governments that are used to incent private landowners to voluntarily open their lands for public use while upholding private property rights. Colorado has enhanced upland game habitat through partnerships supported by VPA-HIP grants and developed new opportunities for Walk-In Access to hunt big and small game.

This legislation is supported by over 30 sportsmen, conservation, and outdoor recreation groups and organizations.

"Dependable access to quality habitat is the foundation of hunting and fishing; without it, the outdoor recreation economy stops at the locked gate. The Voluntary Public Access Improvement Act helps to continue the legacy of the Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentives Program (VPA-HIP), a one-of-a-kind Farm Bill program that has opened millions of productive acres to America's sportsmen and women in states across the country. With today's introduction, Senator Daines and Senator Bennet have taken the first crucial steps towards assuring this high priority sportsmen's program has the funding it needs to meet demand and keep hunters and anglers afield." - Whit Fosburgh, President and CEO, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership

"We applaud Senators Daines and Bennett for their leadership in addressing one of our organization's top priorities: providing more access for hunters. In addition to providing voluntary access to high-quality habitats, including Conservation Reserve Program lands, VPA-HIP benefits farmers and ranchers. This combination is crucial to wildlife, America's outdoor quality of life and the rural economy." - Howard K. Vincent President and CEO, Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever

"Access to quality wildlife habitat remains one of the most important challenges facing hunters. Programs like this allow conservation organizations, state agencies and private landowners to work together to provide hunters access to lands offering opportunities for harvest. This is critical for maintaining interest and participation in hunting." - David Allen, President & CEO, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation

"We applaud Senators Daines and Bennet for their work towards reauthorizing the Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program, which harnesses the power of partnerships to benefit private landowners, fish and wildlife conservation, and the public. By enabling state agencies to create or expand local access programs, this vital program increases opportunities for hunting, fishing, and other wildlife-dependent recreation while also strengthening and supporting rural economies." - Virgil Moore, President of the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies.

A copy of the bill is available HERE.