Rep. Marshall Introduces Bipartisan Legislation to Increase Hunters Opportunity and Access on Private Lands
Washington D.C.- Congressman Roger Marshall, M.D. introduced the Voluntary Public Access Improvement Act with Rep. Glenn Thompson (R-PA), Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-IL), and Rep Debbie Dingell (D-MI).
"As an avid outdoorsman and conservationist, I'm proud to introduce the Voluntary Public Access Improvement Act, a program that expands hunting and fishing access in Kansas and across the country," Congressman Marshall said.
This bipartisan legislation would reauthorize the Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program (VPA-HIP), which is a farm bill program that pays landowners who voluntarily open their land to hunters and outdoorsman.
"Our Voluntary Access Program not only provides essential access for Illinois hunters and anglers, but it also strengthens our local economy," Rep. Bustos said. "Enhancing the program will boost this investment in the local businesses where sportsmen and women buy their gear, grab their coffee, and gas up their trucks. It's an investment in the next generation of hunters and anglers, as well."
This program offers competitive grants to state and tribal governments and increases public access to private lands for wildlife-dependent recreation, such as hunting, fishing, and nature watching or hiking. These funds are particularly important in a state like Kansas, where more than 97 percent of lands are privately held.
"I grew up hunting and fishing all over Kansas with my dad and brother, and some of my fondest memories are teaching my own sons how to hunt. It is important to me that every hunter has the opportunity to pass these traditions on to future generations," Rep. Marshall said.
Kansas is the largest state recipient of VPA-HIP funds to date. This program creates incentives for private property owners by compensating them for the use of their land. The grants would also reauthorize funding for road and fence repair, habitat improvement, and in Kansas provide liability protection for landowners should someone get hurt on their property.
"Our state's Walk-In Access Program already helps landowners voluntarily open up thousands of acres for the public to enjoy and by enhancing federal support for the program, we will undoubtedly help carry those benefits to more Americans," Rep. Marshall said.
Beyond offering opportunities for hunters, the legislation would help rural communities by drawing tourism and giving farmers and ranchers a potential additional revenue stream.
"If we have any hope of growing the next generation of sportsmen and women to sustain these traditions, we need quality places to hunt and fish all across the country, not just in states that look like Montana," Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership said. "Enhancing the voluntary public access incentives in the Farm Bill has long been a part of TRCP's mission, and we're proud to see lawmakers on both sides of the aisle embrace this solution."
As the House and Senate draft the 2018 Farm Bill members hope to see this bipartisan program included in the bill.