Hunters heading to western and south-central Minnesota will have access to an additional 6,083 acres of hunting land this fall as the Walk-In Access program grows to more than 20,000 acres and the number of counties increases from 19 to 28.
Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) crews are in the field marking boundaries on new Walk-In Access land with bright yellow-green signs. Beginning Sunday, Sept. 1, hunters will have access to 194 Walk-In Access sites.
This fall hunters must purchase a $3 Walk-In Access validation on their small game or deer license to legally access land enrolled in the program. The DNR added the validation so it can learn how many hunters use Walk-In Access lands as well as where and how those lands are used.
“Local soil and water conservation district offices are a key part of the Walk-In program,” said Marybeth Block, DNR Walk-In Access coordinator. “Because of their work directly with landowners, we’ve added almost 2,000 new acres in Wilkin County as well as many new sites in Becker, Douglas and Otter Tail counties.”
Walk-In Access provides public access to private land and pays landowners by the acre to allow hunting access from Sept. 1 to May 31. Most Walk-In Access lands also are enrolled in a federal or state conservation program or have natural cover. Small areas of cropland or hay land may be present.
Revenue generated by the new validation fee will be used to survey hunters and gather other information as the DNR develops a long-term, financially sustainable program. Additional revenue to support Walk-In Access comes from a surcharge on nonresident hunting licenses and through donations of $1, $3 or $5 from anyone purchasing a hunting license.
“We have gotten positive feedback from both hunters and landowners since the program kicked off in 2011,” said Mike Tenney, DNR acting prairie habitat team leader. “We look forward to that success carrying into 2013.”
Maps of all sites will be available for viewing at www.mndnr.gov/walkin by mid-August. Printed atlases of Walk-In Access sites will be distributed across the Walk-In Access area or will be available by calling the DNR Information Center at 651-296-6157 or toll-free 888-646-6367.
“Hunter support is key to this program,” Block said. “Using the land, respecting the land and donating to Walk-In Access program will help build the program for future hunters.”