Money for Public Access

October 7, 2010 08:37 PM

 On Oct. 4, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that 17 state public access programs will receive grants totaling $11.76 million through the Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program (VPA-HIP).  The funds can be used to provide rental payments and other incentives, such as technical or conservation services, to owners and operators of privately held farm, ranch and forest land to voluntarily give hunters, fishermen, bird watchers, hikers and other recreational outdoor enthusiasts access to land for their enjoyment.

If you are interested in participating, consider potential liability issues first. In general, if someone is injured on your land, you are liable. This is especially true if you receive payment for such access. 
"Legal literature often states that any payment received voids liability protection of the recreational use statutes, but that’s not always the case in states’ laws (for excample, South Dakota allows up to $100 payment before considering it a charge), so it’s good to double check the state law at issue," notes Harrison M. Pittman, director of the National Agricultural Law Center at the University of Arkansas. "Some states (like Arkansas) allow for protection under Recreational Use Statutes even if there is payment received. Some statutes distinguish between any payment received and the manner in which it is received (for example, whether it’s an admission fee to enter the premises." 
A collection of states’ recreational use statutes is also available on the Center’s web site.
The rules in your state may be different if the access is considered "agritourism" because some states have different laws in that case, Pittman says. South Dakota recently amended its recreational use statute to apply to agritourism activities, which defines "agritourism activity" in way that includes whether or not the activity was paid for by the participant.  "It’s possible that they are the only state so far to do this through amendment of the recreational use statute," Pittman says.
The 17 states and their grant amounts are:
Arizona - $600,000 
Colorado - $445,318 
Idaho - $400,000 
Illinois - $525,250 
Iowa - $500,000 
Kansas - $1,500,000 
Kentucky - $651,515 
Michigan - $457,449 
Minnesota - $582,367 
Nebraska - $1,091,164 
North Dakota - $300,000
Oregon - $786,795 
Pennsylvania - $1,500,000 
South Dakota - $558,325 
Utah - $84,837 
Washington - $836,999
Wisconsin - $936,040

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