Providing public hunting access pays
Submitted by Tim Urban
The Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism (KDWPT) is accepting applications from private landowners willing to make their land available for public hunting access through a lease agreement.
The Walk-In Hunting Access program (WIHA) is more than 20 years old and remains popular among hunters and landowners. Participating landowners receive payments, which vary depending on the number of acres offered, quality of habitat and length of the access period.
Almost anyone who owns or leases land in Kansas can qualify. This includes resident landowners, absentee landowners, tenant farmers, estate managers and others who manage privately owned land.
Applications are accepted year-round; however, applications for the fall 2017 season need to be submitted by July 1. This deadline allows for property review, lease development, posting signage and atlas production prior to Sept. 1. Once applications are received, biologists review the properties and assess them for hunting opportunity, available habitat and access.
There are several benefits to participating, in addition to the lease payment. Many landowners own land far from their home or do not have time to worry about who is hunting on their land. It may be more convenient for them to enroll their property in the WIHA program.
Property boundaries are posted along with regulations, so there is little doubt what property is open and what is not. Conservation officers patrol WIHA properties much like other public hunting areas.
While incidents are rare, violators will be ticketed or arrested for offenses such as vandalism, littering or failing to comply with posted regulations. Landowners can withdraw from the program at any time, but will be paid a prorated payment amount if they withdraw during the designated lease period.
Liability is a valid concern. State law provides that private landowners who lease their land to KDWPT for recreational purposes like hunting are immune from damages or injuries that result from ordinary negligence. No vehicle usage by the public is allowed. Access is by foot traffic only during posted access periods. Hunting is the only designated public activity allowed on leased properties.
For more information or if you are interested in enrolling your property, contact Tim Urban at 913-422-1314 ext. 105. You will be asked to provide your contact information and a legal description for the acreage you would like to have considered for enrollment.