Improved Hunter Access To Private Lands Coming In WA, OR

Expanded access to private lands is coming for Washington and Oregon hunters thanks to grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

In Washington, WDFW plans to use the money to support projects that provide incentives to:

* Private landowners who allow waterfowl hunting, big game hunting and wildlife viewing in Whatcom, Skagit and Snohomish counties.

* Private forest landowners who allow hunting in Lewis, Cowlitz and Wahkiakum counties.

* Private landowners who allow hunting for pheasant and other wildlife found in fields in Whitman, Garfield, Columbia, and Walla Walla counties.

* Farmers who leave corn stubble untilled through the winter for waterfowl food and allow hunting in Grant and Franklin counties.

WDFW called the grant “a major boost” for efforts to open up gates previously locked to hunters.

Oregon received $786,795 grant and hopes to open an additional 200,000 acres, including upland bird hunting access in Morrow, Gilliam, Umatilla, Sherman, and Wasco counties and goose hunting access in the Willamette Valley.

The state has nearly 4.5 million acres of private lands already open to public hunting access through the Access & Habitat Program.

The money comes from USDA’s new Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program, created by the 2008 federal Farm Bill to expand public access to private agricultural and forest lands.

WDFW Wildlife program manager Dave Ware said his agency is already working toward that goal, and expects to open more than 200,000 acres of additional private land to hunting by the start of next year’s hunting season.

To support that effort, WDFW has raised $400,000 to expand hunter access through additional fees paid by hunters who apply for new permit-only hunts.

“Our staff is working with farmers, ranchers and owners of private timberlands on multi-year agreements right now,” Ware said. “With the new federal grant, we’ll be able to do a lot more.”

Ware said WDFW has bolstered its Private Lands Access program to reverse the steady decline of land open to hunting due to population growth, suburban sprawl and crowding on public lands. The department currently has access agreements with over 600 landowners, providing access to just over one million acres of private land around the state.

Besides opening their lands to hunters, landowners may qualify for compensation by planting crops and vegetation that attract game or agreeing to allow duck blinds on their property.

Rural communities that provide services to hunters who visit their area also benefit from the program, Ware said. According to a survey conducted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, hunters spend approximately $313 million in Washington each year, mostly in rural areas.

In addition, WDFW plans to update its GoHunt online mapping program, and develop an automated system that will allow hunters to reserve hunting days on private lands enrolled in some of the department’s access programs.

For more information on the Private Lands Access program, see WDFW’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/hunting_access/private_lands/ .

For more information on Oregon’s Open Fields program or A&H call Matt Keenan at 503-947-6087 or visit the website at www.dfw.state.or.us/AH/

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