DES MOINES - The Iowa Department of Natural Resources will host a second public meeting on the voluntary public access habitat incentive program at 1 p.m., March 29, in the fourth floor west conference room of the Wallace State Office Building, in Des Moines.
The program is part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture farm bill. The Iowa DNR was awarded a $1.5 million grant by the USDA to test a pilot program for three years. The program provides funding to landowners who voluntarily sign up to install wildlife habitat or habitat improvements on their land. In turn, the landowner would allow hunters access to their land.
"There has been some confusion on program primarily on how it is funded. The program is part of the farm bill, which is a federal program," said Kelly Smith, with the DNR's Wildlife Bureau. "The DNR contributes wildlife habitat stamp funds toward the program, which we are required to use in this way. There is no money from the state general fund used for the program.
"Another point of confusion is the participation by landowners," Smith said. "Participation in the program is completely voluntary."
Smith said the pilot program is supported by Pheasants Forever, Ducks Unlimited, the Raccoon River Watershed Association and others.
"This would be a first of its kind program in Iowa," she said. "There is no other program in the state that provides public access on private land for hunting."
Comments received on the voluntary public access habitat incentive program will be included in the pilot program discussion during the April 14 Natural Resource Commission meeting.
"We believe this is a good program to explore because landowners who choose to participate can get some assistance to pay for wildlife habitat improvement on their land, and the DNR can increase the amount of wildlife habitat on private land and land available to the public for hunting access," Smith said.
Any person wishing to make written public comments may send those on or before March 29, to Kelly Smith, Iowa Department of Natural Resources, Wallace State Office Building, 502 E. 9th Street, Des Moines, IA 50319-0034 or by fax at 515-281-6794 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A public hearing will be held at 1 p.m., March 29, in the fourth floor west conference room, Wallace State Office Building, 502 E. 9th St., in Des Moines. Any persons intending to attend the public hearing and have special requirements, such as those related to hearing or mobility impairments, should contact the Department of Natural Resources and advise of specific needs.