Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program


The primary objective of VPA-HIP is to encourage owners and operators of privately-held farm, ranch, and forest land to voluntarily make that land available for access by the public for wildlife-dependent recreation, including hunting or fishing, under programs implemented by state or tribal governments.

General information about this opportunity
Last Known Status
Program Number
Federal Agency/Office
Natural Resources Conservation Service, Department of Agriculture
Type(s) of Assistance Offered
A - Formula Grants; B - Project Grants; Z - Salaries and Expenses
Program Accomplishments
Not applicable.
The Food Security Act of 1985, Public Law 99-198
The Agricultural Act of 2014, Public Law 113-79
The Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, Public Law 115-334
15 US Code U.S.C. 714b and 714c
Who is eligible to apply/benefit from this assistance?
Applicant Eligibility
Only States and Tribal governments are eligible for VPA-HIP. An eligible State government means any State or local government, including State, city, town, or county government. An eligible Tribal Government means any Federally-recognized Indian tribe, band, nation, or other organized group, or community, including pueblos, rancherias, colonies and any Alaska Native Village, or regional or village corporation as defined in or established pursuant to the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (43 U.S.C 1601-1629H), which is recognized as eligible for the special programs and services provided by the United States to Indians because of their status as Indians.
Beneficiary Eligibility
The beneficiary eligibility is extended to the public for the purposes of expanding existing public access programs or create new public access programs or provide incentives to improve habitat on enrolled program lands. Proposals for grant money should be submitted to the local State or Tribal governments by owners and operators of privately-held farm, ranch, and forest land. An eligible owner is one who has legal ownership of farmland, ranchland, or forestland. An eligible operator (individual, entity, or joint operation) is one who is determined by the FSA county committee to be in control of the farming, ranching, or silvicultural operations on the farm. For the purposes of receiving grant money, an appropriate wildlife habitat should be suitable or proper, as determined by the applicable State or tribal government, to support fish and wildlife populations in the area. An eligible farmland or ranch land means the sum of the Direct and Counter-Cyclical (DCP) cropland, forest, acreage planted to an eligible crop acreage and other land on the farm. Eligible forest land is at least 120 feet wide and one acre in size with at least 10 percent cover (or equivalent stocking) by live trees of any size, including land that formerly had such tree cover and that will be naturally or artificially regenerated. Forest land includes transition zones, such as areas between forest and non-forest lands that have at least 10 percent cover (or equivalent stocking) with live trees and forest areas adjacent to urban and built-up lands. Roadside, streamside, and shelterbelt strips of trees must have a crown width of at least 120 feet and continuous length of at least 363 feet to qualify as forest land. Unimproved roads and trails, streams, and clearings in forest areas are classified as forest if they are less than 120 feet wide or an acre in size. Tree-covered areas in agricultural production settings, such as fruit orchards, or tree-covered areas in urban settings, such as city parks, are not considered forest land. Eligible privately-held land means farm, ranch, or forest land that is owned or operated by an individual or entity that is not an entity of any government unit or Tribe.
Funding priority was given to proposals that expended VPA-HIP funding through a public access program to address these objectives: Maximize participation by landowners; Ensure that land enrolled in the program has appropriate wildlife habitat; Encourage participation of Wetland Reserve Easement (WRE) landowners in the public access program; Supplement funding and services from other federal, state, tribal government or private resources; and Provide information to the public about the location of public access land.
What is the process for applying and being award this assistance?
Pre-Application Procedure
Preapplication coordination is not applicable.
Application Procedure
2 CFR 200, Uniform Administrative Requirements, Cost Principles, and Audit Requirements for Federal Awards applies to this program. The applicant is the individual State or tribal government. Any application from any unit of the State or tribal government must be coordinated for a single submission of one application from the State or Tribal government. Incomplete applications will not be considered for funding. Since the VPA-HIP is a competitive grants program, information furnished by grant applicants in their proposals will be used to determine eligibility for the VPA-HIP benefits and for ranking their proposals against others. Furnishing the data is voluntary; however, the failure to provide information could result in program benefits being withheld or denied. The following forms must be completed, signed, and submitted as part of the application; other forms may be required, as specified in the applicable RFA/APF: 1. Application for Federal Assistance; 2. Budget Information-Non-Construction Programs; and 3. Assurances-Non-Construction Programs.
Award Procedure
Grants are awarded through a competitive process. Following award selections, grantees enter into a grant agreement with NRCS. The agreement includes the deliverables and proposed budget for the project, as well as reporting requirements and other general terms and conditions.
Contact the headquarters or regional location, as appropriate for application deadlines
Approval/Disapproval Decision Time
Not applicable.
Appeals will be handled according to 7 CFR parts 11 and 780.
Not applicable.
How are proposals selected?
Incomplete applications will not be evaluated. All applications will be evaluated using the evaluation criteria and scored in accordance with the VPA-HIP funding announcement. An evaluation panel will rank proposals and make recommendations for funding. The NRCS Chief makes the final award decisions.
How may assistance be used?
The funding provided by the VPA-HIP helps states and tribal governments increase public access to private land and improve wildlife habitat. Grant recipients can use the funding to provide financial incentives to landowners to participate in a public access program, provide infrastructure or equipment associated with implementation of the public access program, and provide incentives to landowners to improve wildlife habitat on lands enrolled in a public access program.
What are the requirements after being awarded this opportunity?
Not applicable.
Not applicable.
No Data Available.
Other Assistance Considerations
Formula and Matching Requirements
Statutory formula is not applicable to this assistance listing.

Matching requirements are not applicable to this assistance listing.

MOE requirements are not applicable to this assistance listing.
Length and Time Phasing of Assistance
Section 726 of the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2012, effectively ended any new VPA-HIP obligations, or modifications to existing obligations that were made under the Food Security Act of 1975. VPA-HIP was reauthorized by the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, P.L. 115–334. Method of awarding/releasing assistance is as documented in the specific agreements between NRCS and awardees. Recipients draw down funding through advances or reimbursements based on allowable project costs.
Who do I contact about this opportunity?
Regional or Local Office
None/Not specified.
Headquarters Office
Projects Branch
Natural Resources Conservation Service
1400 Independence Ave, SW
Washington, DC 20250 US
Phone: N/A
Website Address
Financial Information
Account Identification
(Project Grants) FY 22$92,000.00; FY 23 est $0.00; FY 24 est $0.00; FY 21$0.00; FY 20$49,421,000.00; FY 19$0.00; FY 18$0.00; FY 17$0.00; FY 16$0.00; - (Salaries and Expenses) FY 22$305,000.00; FY 23 est $233,000.00; FY 24 est $0.00; FY 21$162,000.00; FY 20$103,000.00; FY 19$250,000.00; FY 18$0.00; -
Range and Average of Financial Assistance
The Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 authorized $50 million for VPA-HIP. All project grant funds were obligated in FY 2020. The maximum amount for a single award was $3 million. VPA-HIP is posted only once every five years. The last NFO was posted in FY19 and applications were received in processed in FY20. In FY20, the award obligations totaled $48,750,001. The next NFO will post once the farm bill is updated, most likely in FY24 or FY25.
Regulations, Guidelines and Literature
7 CFR Part 3015, Uniform Federal Assistance Regulations; 7 CFR Part 3016, Uniform Administrative Requirements for Grants and Cooperative Agreements to State and Local Governments; 7 CFR Part 3017, Government wide Debarment and Suspension (non procurement) and Government wide Requirements for Drug-Free Workplace (Grants); 7 CFR Part 3018, New Restrictions on Lobbying; 7 CFR Part 3019, Uniform Administrative Requirements for Grants and Agreements with Institutions of Higher Education, Hospitals, and Other Non-profit Organizations; 7 CFR Part 3052, Audits of States, Local Governments and Non-profit Organizations
Examples of Funded Projects
Fiscal Year 2020 Below are four examples of VPA-HIP projects awarded in 2020: ARIZONA DEPT OF GAME AND FISH $1,175,078 The Arizona Department of Game and Fish (AGFD) will maintain and expand its Landowner Relations Program. Through this program, AGFD provides financial incentives to private landowners in exchange for public access agreements. These access agreements will provide the public with opportunities for hunting, fishing and other wildlife dependent recreation. ARKANSAS GAME & FISH COMMISSION $2,100,000 The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (AGFC) will expand the existing Arkansas Waterfowl Rice Incentive Conservation Enhancement (ARWRICE) Program. Through the ARWRICE program, AGFC provides financial incentives to rice producers near select Wildlife Management Areas and National Wildlife Refuges to increase public hunting access on private rice fields while improving wildlife habitat. This program will work with landowners to enhance waterfowl habitat quality that has been declining due to changing agricultural practices. COLORADO DIVISION OF PARKS AND WILDLIFE $1,220,000 The Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife (CPW) will expand Colorado’s Walk-In Access (WIA) Program. Through the WIA program, CWP delivers opportunities to landowners statewide, opening privately owned lands to increase public access for small and big game hunting. GEORGIA DEPARTMENT OF NATURAL RESOURCES $1,918,750 The Georgia Department of Natural Resources will lease privately-owned farm, forestland, and agricultural cropland for dove hunting to expand the Georgia Wildlife Resources Division’s current Wildlife Management Area Public Access Program. Additionally, funds received from this grant will be used to provide incentives to enhance wildlife habitat on enrolled lands.


Federal Grants Resources