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Tim Smith

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Funding Boost for USDA Program Expanding Public Access, Habitat Restoration

Draws Sportsmen's Praise

$8 million in federal funds allocated to "Open Fields" public access program

to increase hunting and angling opportunities on private lands

WASHINGTON - The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership today welcomed

a U.S. Department of Agriculture announcement regarding continued funding

for the Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program, popularly

known as "Open Fields," which is dedicated to expanding public access and

conserving valuable fish and wildlife habitat on privately owned lands.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack stated that public access programs in 2011

will receive additional grants totaling $8 million toward the total of $50

million that is available for three years through Open Fields. Many of the

grants funded in 2010, the first year of the program's implementation, were

for multiple years and will receive continued funding in 2011.

One of the signature issues of the TRCP, Open Fields was successfully

included in the 2008 Farm Bill following the efforts of the TRCP and many

TRCP partner organizations. Open Fields can open millions of additional

acres of private lands to hunters and anglers by augmenting existing state

access programs and encouraging new walk-in programs. The increased funding

facilitates the creation or expansion of existing public-access programs or

provides landowner incentives to increase sportsmen's access and improve

fish and wildlife habitat on newly enrolled lands.

"By allocating these millions of dollars to Open Fields, the U.S. Department

of Agriculture is showing its support of practices that benefit fish and

wildlife and public access to the nation's private lands," said Jennifer

Mock Schaeffer, Farm Bill coordinator for the Association of Fish & Wildlife

Agencies and chair of the <http://www.trcp.org/issues/farmbill/383.html>

TRCP Agriculture and Wildlife Working Group. "Without the USDA's vote of

confidence, these important conservation programs would not otherwise be


The $8 million to be made available in 2011 is in addition to the initial

VPA-HIP monies approval for the program in 2010; approximately $11.75

million was awarded to 17 states last year following approval of these


"Our nation's hunting and fishing traditions are inextricably tied to the

health of America's privately owned farm, ranch and forest lands," said Dave

Nomsen, vice president of government affairs for Pheasants Forever and Quail

Forever and member of the TRCP Agriculture and Wildlife Working Group. "We

appreciate Secretary Vilsack's commitment to American sportsmen and our

shared natural resources through his support of continued funding of Open


Twenty-six states currently have public access programs for hunting, fishing

and other related activities. Sportsmen are encouraging states and tribal

governments to submit VPA-HIP applications for 2011 funding through the

federal government <http://www.grants.gov/> 's grants portal to the Farm

Service Agency for consideration.

"America's sportsmen-conservationists already have demonstrated overwhelming

support of the Open Fields program - and of similar private-lands

conservation programs included in the 2008 Farm Bill," said TRCP President

and CEO Whit Fosburgh. "We offer the USDA our thanks for continuing to see

that public access and fish and wildlife conservation remain priorities of

the federal government, and we look forward to working to sustain funding

for these crucial programs as the 2012 Farm Bill is deliberated in the

months to come."

Learn more about Open Fields and other Farm Bill programs.


Read more about the TRCP <http://trcp.org/issues/farmbill.html> 's work on

the Farm Bill.

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