2 minute read

Benefits In Abundance




Claire VanValkenburg is a communications specialist in the DNR’s Division of Fish, Wildlife and Parks.

In Wisconsin, being a good neighbor is the norm. That may be a big reason why the DNR’s Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program is one of the largest in the Midwest.

VPA-HIP allows private landowners the opportunity to open their property to the public through lease agreements, thereby enhancing outdoor recreation. The program also encourages the expansion of wildlife habitat management in Wisconsin.

Landowners enrolled in the VPA program can apply for funding for land management projects such as prescribed burning, conservation cover and upland wildlife habitat management. Proposed projects are vetted by the DNR to be sure they are appropriate and don’t damage sensitive resources.

Funding for the program is made available through the DNR from money authorized in the 2018 Farm Bill and administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Lease agreements with landowners are flexible in duration and pay per acre based on land type. Eligible lands include grasslands, wetlands, forestlands and, in some cases, agricultural lands.

Enrollment priority is given to areas of 40 acres or more with at least a quarter of the land usable cover. Location near existing public fishing or hunting grounds is preferred. Wisconsin statute offers liability protection to landowners who allow public access for outdoor recreation.

VPA-HIP benefits everyone involved. Landowners gain resources and funding to manage their property, and Wisconsin residents have an additional 30,000 acres for recreational activities.

Recent survey responders have noted how important the VPA program is for passing on the traditions of hunting and outdoor recreation. Most said they’ve used the program to hunt, but 47% of users also took advantage of VPA lands to fish, trap and observe wildlife.

In addition, 90% of landowners and 96% of recreational users said they were satisfied with their experience in the VPA program.

“It’s a great program,” one participating landowner noted. “It really helps let people hunt and helps with herd control, so you don’t have to worry about deer numbers and damage as much.”


The DNR’s R3 program — recruitment, retention and reactivation — works closely with the VPA program, seeking ways to bolster participation in fishing, trapping and shooting sports. Thanks to VPA-HIP, there are more places to pass on Wisconsin’s outdoor traditions.

No permission is needed to hunt, trap, fish or observe wildlife on VPA properties; don’t contact landowners to ask about access. Other activities such as harvesting wild edibles or antler sheds are not permitted.

Access is allowed only on foot and only where posted. Be aware of boundaries. No tree stands or blinds, trail cameras, camping or campfires are allowed.

Land users are asked to adhere to a common-sense code of conduct summed up with: “Be ethical, courteous and safe.”

If you’re planning a hunting getaway this fall, consider VPA properties, which often are quieter than most public hunting grounds, allowing for more harvest opportunities.

Wisconsinites know that sharing resources means more opportunities for everyone. With the VPA program, there is something for every neighbor.


For details on the Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program, including how to apply to enroll a property and how to find VPA lands by county list or interactive map, check dnr.wi.gov/topic/lands/VPA.

Voluntary Public Access lands, marked by signage, can be found statewide.

Voluntary Public Access lands, marked by signage, can be found statewide.

Wisconsin DNR