The U.S. Department of Agriculture has awarded $20 million in grants to 15 states, including Kansas, to improve and increase wildlife habitat and public access for recreational opportunities on privately-owned and operated farm, ranch and forest lands.
The Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism received a $2.7 million grant, the largest amount awarded to the 15 states.
According to the Kansas agency, the funds will be used over a three-year period to lease private land for hunting and fishing access and to help landowners improve habitat on those properties. Program promotion and outreach will occur this fall, with initial enrollment beginning late-spring to early-summer of 2016.
With respect to hunting, the focus for the funds will be on enrolling new or recently enrolled Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) properties. Participating landowners must be willing to allow public hunting access on the property for the duration of the CRP contract and enroll in wildlife-friendly conservation practices. Landowners are encouraged to enroll or re-enroll their properties in CRP between the continuous signup and the general CRP signup, which begins Dec. 1, 2015. KDWPT expects to add an estimated 40,000 to 60,000 new acres of quality access properties over the next three years.
The state will also use the funds to improve fishing and paddle sports access, enrolling prime stream reaches, as well as quality privately-owned impoundments. Public access to these streams would provide a multitude of angling opportunities and open up recreational paddle sports access, which is limited in the state because most of the 10,000 miles of streams and rivers in Kansas are privately owned.