Parimal M. Rohit
WASHINGTON, D.C. — A federal grant program distributed $20 million to 15 states in an attempt to ramp up wildlife habitat protection and public access for recreational opportunities on privately-owned and operated farms, forest lands and ranches, it was announced Aug. 17. California was not one of the 15 states awarded grant funding from the Department of Agriculture’s Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program (VPA-HIP).
The grant program incentivizes states and private landowners to voluntarily make available lands otherwise not open to the public to recreational anglers. State agencies and private landowners can also use the funding to improve fish habitat on the property.
Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Kansas, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Oregon, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming were the 15 states awarded grants by the Department of Agriculture.
Nebraska, for example, was awarded $1.35 million to open up, among other things, 55 miles of streams and rivers for public fishing access. An $836,000 grant to Massachusetts will result in 10,000 acres of private forestland for public fishing, hunting and wildlife watching. Kansas received the largest grant — $2.7 million — to create more fishing opportunities in that state.
Here in California, the state’s Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) does have a few initiatives to promote recreational fishing. Anglers can participate in the Fishing Passport program, which fishers are challenged to find as many as 150 different fish and shellfish species up and down the state.
DFW also promotes a “Fishing in the City” program, where anglers in urban areas are offered clinics to learn how to fish and where to drop a line without straying too far from home.
California also offers two free fishing days per year, where anglers can fish free of charge. The first free fishing day of 2015 was July 4; a second free fishing day is scheduled for Sept. 5, which is during Labor Day weekend.
The Natural Resources Conservation arm of the Agricultural Department awarded the grants to the 15 selected states. Grant awards were selected based upon multiple criteria, including public education, increased recreational access, conservation practice standards and habitat improvement efforts.
A 2013 study commissioned by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation found the outdoor recreation economy contributes $80 billion in tax revenues and directly supports more than 6 million jobs nationwide.