The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (MN DNR) Walk-In Access (WIA) program enrollment begins on March 15 and goes through May 14. Landowners who enroll into WIA can earn income by allowing public hunting on their private land during any legal hunting season. This year, landowners can receive up to $18 per enrolled acre.
“The Walk-In Access program is a great opportunity for landowners to get compensated while providing new and exciting opportunities for public hunting,” said Dennis Fuchs, Stearns County Soil & Water Conservation District (SWCD) Administrator.
Landowners who are interested in enrolling their land, must meet the following criteria:
· Must be at least 40 acres in size or it must be contiguous with another WIA parcel that is 40 acres or more in size.
· Priority is given to lands enrolled in a conservation program such as the federal Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) or the state Reinvest in Minnesota Reserve Program (RIM), or other state and federal conservation programs.
· Lands not enrolled in a conservation program may be eligible if high quality natural cover exists and is maintained by the landowner.
· Lands within 500 feet of a home or corral occupied by livestock cannot be enrolled, unless they are occupied by the cooperator or his/her livestock.
· The enrolled parcel must be accessible from a public road.
· The habitat must be maintained through the enrollment period.
· Landowners, or the State, may terminate the contract at any time (effective 30 days after written notice of termination received).
Since the launch of the program in 2011, over 28,000 acres of private land is open for public hunting from September 1 through May 31. Hunters with a $3 WIA validation may hunt a half-hour before sunrise until a half-hour after sunset. WIA land is for hunting only; no target practice, trapping, dog training, camping, horseback riding, or fires are allowed. Interested hunters can obtain a WIA validation pass when purchasing a hunting license. The DNR has placed bright yellow-green signs on WIA boundaries.
If you are interested in enrolling or have questions, please contact the Stearns County SWCD office at 320.251.7800 ext. 3. or via email at info@StearnsCountySWCD.net. Our office works directly with landowners for program enrollment. An atlas of hunting parcels is available online at https://www.dnr.state.mn.us/walkin/index.html.
The Walk-In Access program funding includes a grant awarded by the Natural Resources Conservation Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, under number 69-3A75-16-509; a one-time appropriation from the MN State Legislature in 2012; a $5 surcharge on nonresidents hunting license; and donations made by hunters purchasing hunting license.
Picture credit: MN DNR