February 22, 2018

CSC Members Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Increase Public Access to Privately Owned Lands

On February 14, Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus (CSC) Members Representatives Roger Marshall (KS), Glenn Thompson (PA), Cheri Bustos (IL), and Debbie Dingell (MI) introduced the Voluntary Public Access Improvement Act of 2018 (H.R. 5022). This legislation would reauthorize and increase funding for the Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program (VPA-HIP).

VPA-HIP is a grant program reauthorized by the 2014 Farm Bill that helps state and tribal governments increase public access to private lands for wildlife-dependent activities like hunting and fishing, while also improving wildlife habitat on these lands. Since 2014, fish and wildlife agencies in 29 states have received over $40 million to expand public access and improve more than 2.5 million acres of wildlife habitat. States have used VPA-HIP grants to acquire land for public use, expand programs increasing outdoor opportunities for urban youth, help at-risk species while growing public access programs, improve access points to public lands, increase wildlife populations and land available for hunting, and open or expand existing public access to private lands programs.

The Senate companion bill, S.2243, was introduced by CSC Members Senator Steve Daines (MT) and Senator Michael Bennet (CO) on December 18, 2017.

Both of these bipartisan bills would fund VPA-HIP at $150 million over five years. This figure reflects the strong demand for these funds and the many benefits that the VPA-HIP program provides for conservation and communities dependent on hunting and angling. Shortly after the bill’s introduction, 33 sportsmen-conservation groups, including the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, signed a letter in support of the legislation.

Studies conducted at both the state and federal level have found that the number of hunters and trappers have been on a generally declining trend over the past several decades. To increase recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) of hunters and trappers, which initiative do you think would have the greatest impact?

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