Denver — Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet joined U.S. Senators Steve Daines (R-Mont.) and Roger Marshall (R-Kan.) to reintroduce the Voluntary Public Access Improvement Act. This bill would expand opportunities for hunting, fishing, hiking and other wildlife-dependent activities in America.
The Voluntary Public Access Improvement Act would reauthorize and strengthen the Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program (VPA-HIP) by increasing funding from $50 million to $150 million over 5 years. The VPA-HIP provides competitive grants to states and tribal governments to be used to incent private landowners to voluntarily open their lands for public use while upholding private property rights. In 2021, VPA-HIP supported over 234,000 acres in Colorado for public access use during the hunting season. Bennet, Daines, and Marshall introduced and successfully included their prior reauthorization bill in the 2018 Farm Bill.
“For years, this program has rewarded Colorado’s family farmers and ranchers for their efforts to improve wildlife habitat, provide new opportunities for sportsmen and women, and expand recreation options for Coloradans. I fought to expand funding for this program in the last Farm Bill, and I’ll continue to work to prioritize voluntary, successful programs like this one as we begin work on the 2023 Farm Bill,” said Bennet.
“As a lifelong sportsman, I grew up hunting, fishing and backpacking and it’s a family tradition that I’ll pass down to my children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. It’s all part of our Montana way of life. This bipartisan bill will strengthen Montana’s outdoor recreation economy and open up more space for families and sportsmen to enjoy local wildlife for generations to come,” said Daines.
“As an avid outdoorsman and conservationist, some of my greatest memories are hunting and fishing with my kids. I fully support and am proud to introduce the Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive program that encourages Kansans to open their land for the public to enjoy the great outdoors. Increased access to these outdoor recreational activities is good for our children and our shared American values,” said Marshall.
“Lack of access is the largest barrier to hunter and angler participation, and the USDA’s Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program is the single best federal tool to increase recreational access on private lands. We applaud Senators Daines, Bennet, and Marshall for their leadership on the Voluntary Public Access Improvement Act and look forward to working with Congress to expand hunting and fishing opportunities for all Americans,” said Whit Fosburgh, President and CEO, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership.
“Since 2008, the Voluntary Public Access & Habitat Incentive Program has provided one of the most vital funding sources for state fish and wildlife agencies to increase public access to private lands for hunting, fishing, and other wildlife-dependent recreation. New investments in VPA-HIP would be witnessed many times over across America for rural economies and wildlife conservation. Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever want to thank Senators Daines, Bennet, and Marshall for their bipartisan support for this very successful program,” said Marilyn Vetter, Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever’s president and CEO.
“The Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies commends Senator Daines, Bennet, and Marshall for introducing the Voluntary Public Access Improvement Act of 2023. This bill supports funding the program at $150 million allowing expanded access for hunters and anglers across the country. If passed, this program would not only help outdoorsmen and women, but also local economies. The Voluntary Public Access program has shown to have an average of $8 return to the economy for every $1 invested. We extend our full support of this legislation and hope to see its successful incorporation into the 2023 Farm Bill,” said Tim McCoy, Vice-Chair of the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies’ Agriculture Conservation Committee, and Director of the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.
The text of the bill is available HERE.