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New program aims to enroll more land for public hunting in SD

George Vandel and his German wirehair Thena with a rooster
Kevin Woster
George Vandel and his German wirehair Thena with a rooster (file photo)

A new public access hunting program offers landowners more money to enroll their acreage into public access land.

The program aims to open 10,000 acres a year for public hunting access.

It's called PATH, which stands for public access to habitat. The effort is led by Pheasants Forever in partnership with South Dakota Tourism, onX Hunt, and others.

The program offers a base rate of $25 dollars per acre for CRP and high-quality undisturbed habitat.

PATH aims to enroll more land throughout South Dakota in long-term conservation programs. Pheasants Forever said for every $250,000 dollars raised, 10,000 acres or more of quality habitat is opened to the public in the state.

Ben Brettingen is the Wingshooting Manager at onX Hunt. That’s an app that creates hunting maps. He said onX Hunt sponsored the program because of the thriving pheasant population.

“With South Dakota, I mean, it's no secret that it is the pheasant capital of the world. I mean, not only the access, but the sheer bird numbers. It is a fantastic state and the great thing is that obviously the state realizes it, people realize it, so we want to bring people to South Dakota to hunt pheasants,” said Brettingen.

All land enrolled in the PATH program must be new to protective enrollment.

Jake Hanson is a Development Officer for Pheasants Forever. He said multiple enrollments are involved.

“It’s a voluntary, incentive-based program that enrolls lands in long-term conservation programs. Whether that’s through the state or federal level, and then also enrollment in South Dakota Game, Fish, and Parks walk-in access program,” said Hanson.

The PATH program has been welcomed and approved by the South Dakota Game, Fish, and Parks.

Evan Walton is an SDPB reporter based in Sioux Falls. Evan holds a Master’s in English Literature from Southern New Hampshire University and was honorably discharged from the United States Army in 2015, where he served for five years as an infantryman.