Deadline July 1; payments have increased; additional prairie signup offered

Landowners interested in the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks’ (KDWP) Walk-In Hunting Access program (WIHA) -- which pays landowners to allow hunting access on their land -- are reminded that the deadline for enrollment is July 1. The WIHA program, which began in 1995, grew to more than one million acres in 2007, including almost 3,000 contracts.

Almost anyone who owns, leases, or manages 80 contiguous acres of land with suitable wildlife habitat can qualify. A little more than half the land enrolled in WIHA is federal Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) grass, but other lands are also considered,including native rangeland, weedy wheat stubble, milo stubble, and riparian and wetland areas.

After receiving a request, KDWP biologists evaluate the wildlife habitat on applicants' land. Payment rates are based on the size and location of tracts and the number of months the landowner wants the land open to hunting. A 50-percent additional incentive payment is offered for WIHA in the following urban counties: Butler, Coffey, Cowley, Douglas, Franklin, Harvey, Jackson, Jefferson, Kingman, Leavenworth, Lyon, Miami, Osage, Ottawa, Reno, Saline, Sedgwick, Shawnee, Sumner, Johnson, Wyandotte, and Wabaunsee.

Once enrolled, the property is posted and included in maps published in a free atlas provided by KDWP. Natural resource officers periodically patrol WIHA properties. In addition, state law provides additional protection to private individuals who lease their agricultural land to the state for recreational purposes from liability for damages or injuries resulting from ordinary negligence.
Lease options include open periods running Sept. 1-Jan. 31 and Nov. 1-Jan. 31. A popular spin-off is the Spring Turkey WIHA, April 1- May 31. For more information, phone 620-672-5911.