Access is one of the biggest issues affecting the
future of hunting in America. So it’s news when another state adds
a hunter access program. Minnesota will have a walk-in program
giving hunters access to private land, starting in the southwestern
portion of the state.
Following is a release on the new program, and its new
coordinator, from Minnesota Department of Natural
A conservation professional with experience in agricultural
relations has been hired to coordinate Minnesota’s new hunter
walk-in access program.
Marybeth Block, a former soil and water conservation district
employee, will oversee a new program that could open up to 50,000
acres of private land to public hunting. The three-year pilot
project is funded by a $2.7 million appropriation from the U.S.
Department of Agriculture to the Minnesota Department of Natural
“Marybeth has the perfect background to get this program up and
running quickly,” said Dennis Simon, DNR Wildlife Section chief.
“She knows how to work with conservation and agriculture programs
and people as a result of her past service with a Soil and Water
Conservation District, Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR),
and DNR hydrology and metro greenways programs.”
Simon said Block’s position will directly benefit many of our
state’s 600,000 hunters by providing additional hunting
opportunities while improving relationships with private
landowners. It will also coordinate the Fish and Wildlife
Division’s working lands initiative and private lands programs,
both of which help landowners create and enhance habitat beneficial
to wildlife on privately owned land.
Block said she is looking forward to enrolling acres into this new
program beginning this fall. “It is a great fit with my experience,
skills and interests,” she said. Her work will be focused on a
21-county area of Minnesota’s southwest corner, which has been
targeted for strategic investment to allow public hunting on
In this voluntary program, landowners are paid to allow hunters
access to their lands. Federal funding for the new program comes
from the Voluntary Public Access provision of the 2008 Farm Bill.
The goal is to enroll 10,000 acres of access in 2011, add 15,000
more acres in 2012 and 25,000 more acres in 2013, bringing the
cumulative total to 50,000 acres of private land to which hunters
would have walk-in access.
“Many hunters are very excited about the new opportunities these
lands will offer,” Simon said. “Landowners will benefit from
additional payments for their conservation lands and their
liability for allowing public access will be limited.”
DNR, in cooperation with BWSR and the Soil and Water Conservation
Service, will ensure lands enrolled for public access have
appropriate wildlife habitat. Walk-in access will be on lands in
existing conservation programs such as the Conservation Reserve
Enhancement Program (CREP), Conservation Reserve Program (CRP),
Reinvest in Minnesota (RIM) and Wetlands Reserve Program
Once private land is enrolled in the program, youth from
Conservation Corps Minnesota will install signs identifying each
enrolled parcel. The locations will be published in an annual book
and will be available on the DNR website. Hunters can hunt during
any open hunting season, including spring turkey season. No
landowner contacts will be necessary on lands posted with walk-in
The new program is entirely voluntary for landowners. DNR
conservation officers will handle trespass and hunting violations.
Access to enrolled land is limited to foot traffic only. No
vehicles are allowed on the conservation land. Landowners have the
option to withdraw from the program at any time.
Landowners with CREP, CRP, RIM or WRP lands can get additional
payments by enrolling their lands in the new walk-in access
program. The minimum size is 40 acres, with a financial bonus for
more than 160 acres of land enrolled. There also is a financial
bonus if the land is within one-half mile of other public hunting
land, such as a wildlife management area or waterfowl production
area. Bonus rates are also given to landowners who sign up for a
Interested landowners should contact their local county Soil and
Water Conservation District office.