The Michigan Department of Natural Resources today announced that it has been awarded a $1.2 million Voluntary Public Access-Hunting Incentive Program (VPA-HIP) federal grant to enhance the state’s Hunting Access Program with an emphasis on Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program land, habitat restoration and more opportunities for youth and apprentice hunting.
“This is great news for hunters who may not currently have access to hunting land,” said Mike Parker, coordinator of the DNR’s Hunting Access Program. “This grant will allow us to increase hunting opportunities in areas of Michigan where access is limited, restore wildlife habitat, and further our priorities of preserving our state’s rich hunting heritage.”
Michigan’s Hunting Access Program provides financial incentive to landowners in southern Michigan and a portion of the eastern Upper Peninsula who are willing to allow hunters to hunt on their lands. Hunting Access Program lands must be at least 40 acres in size, and payments to landowners increase with better habitat quality and the variety of hunting allowed.
The VPA-HIP grant will allow the DNR Wildlife Division to use a multifaceted approach to expand the Hunting Access Program with a goal of increasing the acres and number of sites enrolled in the program. Currently, there are 15,710 acres on 135 properties. The DNR seeks to expand to more than 24,000 acres on 180 properties by 2017, placing an emphasis on Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program land and increasing youth and apprentice hunter opportunities.
Funding also will be used to enhance wildlife habitat on 600 enrolled acres. Likely habitat restoration activities include grassland enhancement, food plots and invasive species control. The DNR will promote the Hunting Access Program to landowners through conservation districts and other conservation partners.
For more information about the Hunting Access Program, visit www.michigan.gov/hap. To learn more about the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program, visit www.michigan.gov/mda, click on farming, and then environment.
As part of the grant process, the DNR and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service is seeking public comment on an environmental assessment related to the use of grant funds for habitat restoration activities. The public notice with details of the environmental assessment and public comment process is available in Word and PDF formats on the U.S. Department of Agriculture website.
Public comment will be accepted until Jan. 7, 2015. The full text of the notice follows:
NOTICE OF ADOPTION OF THE FARM SERVICE AGENCY ENVIRONMENTAL ASSESSMENT AND NOTICE OF AVAILABILITY OF SUPPLEMENTAL ENVIRONMENTAL ASSESSMENT
FOR VOLUNTARY PUBLIC ACCESS HABITAT INCENTIVE PROGRAM STATE OF Michigan
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) announces its intent to adopt the Farm Service Agency (FSA) FINAL PROGRAMMATIC ENVIRONMENTAL ASSESSMENT FOR VOLUNTARY PUBLIC ACCESS HABITAT INCENTIVE PROGRAM STATE OF MICHIGAN dated August 2011 according to the provisions of the Council on Environmental Quality regulations at 40 CFR 1506.3. Further, NRCS announces the availability of a Supplemental Environmental Assessment (EA) to address those proposed uses of 2014 Voluntary Public Access Habitat Incentive Program (VPA-HIP) grant funds in Michigan that were not addressed in the FSA environmental assessment.
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) applied for and received funding through the 2014 VPA-HIP. This grant is the second VPA-HIP grant awarded to the MDNR and is intended to further expand the objectives set forth in the initial 2011 project proposal. The MDNR proposes to use 2014 VPA-HIP grant funds to continue enrolling land into the states Hunting Access Program (HAP) and promoting outdoor recreational opportunities within the State. The MDNR now proposes to further expand the HAP area to include sharp-tailed grouse and small game hunting in the eastern Upper Peninsula. This was not the case with 2011 grant funds. Additionally, the MDNR now proposes to use $50,000 of VPA-HIP funds annually for the life of the grant to carry out habitat restoration projects on lands enrolled in the HAP. Habitat improvements were not funded under the previous VPA-HIP grant. As a result, NRCS has prepared a Supplemental EA to analyze the potential impacts of the proposed expansion of the HAP area and the habitat restoration projects associated with the 2014 VPA-HIP grant.
The 2011 EA as supplemented assesses the potential environmental effects of the VPA-HIP project in Michigan. NRCS anticipates that only minor, short-term adverse effects will occur during project implementation as a result of using VPA-HIP funds to make wildlife habitat improvements as described in the document. In the long-term, early successional habitat will be improved and other benefits described in the 2011 Programmatic EA will be obtained.
The NRCS will accept comments on its intent to adopt the 2011 EA at the address below until January 7, 2015. A copy of the 2011 EA and the Supplement is available at: http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/ea. NRCS will review comments and determine whether it is appropriate to issue a Finding of No Significant Impact or to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement before the action proceeds.
For further information concerning actions being taken by the NRCS, to obtain a hard copy of the 2011 EA, or to provide written comment, contact the NRCS National Environmental Coordinator by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail at:
Andrée DuVarney, National Environmental Coordinator
USDA, NRCS, Ecological Sciences Division, Room 6158-S
P. O. Box 2890
Washington, D.C. 20013-2890