You’ve probably come across the acronym VPA on the Wildlife Resources Division website or in the hunting regulations. Georgia currently has 19 properties enrolled in this program. But do you actually know what it means?
- VPA stands for the Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program (VPA-HIP).
The program was introduced in 2008 as part of the Farm Bill also known as the Agriculture and Nutrition Act.
- The VPA program provides more public access for the enjoyment of wildlife.
With 93% of Georgia’s land being privately owned, the VPA-HIP and other lease programs make thousands of acres available to the public for their enjoyment of wildlife. This program helps DNR meet the demand from recreationists by providing hunters more public dove fields and waterfowl hunting areas, anglers access to rivers or well-managed lakes, and other users opportunities to hike and watch wildlife.
- The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) administers VPA-HIP funds through a grant program.
The grant program is open to state wildlife agencies and Indian tribes. Funds provided by the grant can be used to lease and manage private lands for wildlife, including opening hunting and fishing opportunities on those lands. The program is competitive ensuring that only high-priority, strategic and cost-effective programming is funded.
- Georgia was last awarded a VPA-HIP grant in 2014.
In 2014, Georgia was the only southeastern state awarded a grant. The grant money was used for lease agreements with willing landowners and a few nongovernment organizations. We will be running this program through 2019 with the current funds.
- The program is a win-win for landowners.
Landowners are provided free wildlife habitat and management assistance from professionals. They are also eligible to earn financial incentives based on possible recreation opportunities and habitat. The going rates are $10/acre for forestland, $65/acre for agricultural fields, and $100/acre for wetlands. Landowners also have flexibility in setting hunting dates available for access and the types of land use allowed on their property. Property can be enrolled for a length between one year and a decade and landowners receive liability protection by Georgia law.
- Georgia DNR is looking to add another waterfowl hunting property.
Our VPA program is currently looking to add 1 to 2 more properties specifically for waterfowl. Do you have property you would be interested in enrolling in a VPA? Contact Don McGowan at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on how to become a VPA property.
- What do you need to access a VPA?