Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said today that the Department of Agriculture will partner with nine State agencies and with the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakima Nation to increase recreational and economic opportunities on private lands. Funding is provided through USDA's Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program (VPA-HIP), authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill.
"The funds we are announcing today will empower state and tribal governments to partner with landowners in their areas to enhance outdoor recreation opportunities, protect at-risk wildlife, and spur new opportunities for rural businesses," said Vilsack. "Partnerships are the key to locally-led, innovative use of private lands, and this is the latest example of the Obama Administration and USDA's successful efforts to connect public and private partners for long-term conservation results."
Under today's announcement, $20 million in grants will be provided to improve wildlife habitat and public access to private lands while spurring new economic opportunities for rural businesses. Many grantees are leveraging other funding to expand existing public access programs, enabling USDA dollars to make a larger impact.
The program is administered by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). State and tribal governments can apply for VPA-HIP grant funding 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.
The increase in recreational activities is an important economic driver in rural communities. According to the Outdoor Industry Association, the outdoor recreation economy supports 6.1 million direct jobs, $80 billion in federal, state and local tax revenues and $646 billion in spending each year.