Landowners and hunters will benefit from a recent announcement that Iowa will receive $3 million from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to expand the Iowa Habitat and Access Program (IHAP). The announcement came from U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in August as part of a $20 million allocation to 10 states.
The DNR’s Iowa Habitat and Access Program provides landowners with financial assistance to improve habitat. In return, participating landowners agree to open those lands for public hunting.
According to Kelly Smith, private lands program coordinator, the DNR will use the grant to enhance 22,000 acres with improvements such as grass seeding, tree and shrub plantings, food plots, timber stand improvements and wetland restorations.
“We’ve seen growing demand by hunters for more public access, and by landowners for more habitat improvement opportunities,” said Smith. “This grant will more than triple the number of acres enrolled in the program.”
The DNR launched the Iowa Habitat and Access Program in 2011. Since then, more than 8,000 acres at 50 locations have received habitat improvements and provided new hunting opportunities.
“We have surveyed participating landowners and they have shown high satisfaction with the program,” said Smith. “Landowners say they’ve had very few concerns with hunters on their land, and would recommend other landowners participate.”
Additionally, hunters seem pleased to have more options for places to hunt. Lands enrolled in IHAP are open for public hunting from Sept. 1 – May 31 and follow the same regulations as public wildlife areas.
"We ask hunters to fill out cards to let us know about their hunting experience on an IHAP parcel,” said Smith. “Of 236 people who completed a card in 2013, 98 percent said they would come back.”
The grant dollars came from the USDA’s Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program (VPA-HIP). The program is administered by the federal Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to expand or improve habitat in existing public access programs or provide incentives to improve habitat on land already enrolled in their public access programs.
If landowners are interested in participating, they should contact their local DNR private lands biologist. For more information about IHAP and to view maps of locations, visit www.iowadnr.gov/ihap.