Administered by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife, The Oklahoma Land Access Program (OLAP) provides financial incentives to landowners who allow public access for hunting, fishing, stream access, and wildlife viewing opportunities on private lands. The ODWC received a $2.26 million dollar grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture as part of the 2014 Farm Bill, through the Voluntary Public Access – Habitat Incentive Program (VPA-HIP). In other states, VPA-HIP programs are successful at simultaneously rewarding conservation on private lands and providing more opportunities for sportspersons.
A core principle of the OLAP is to increase walk-in access opportunities for hunting, fishing, stream access, and wildlife viewing. This goal compliments a main tenant of the North American Conservation Model: that every citizen has an opportunity, under the law, to hunt and fish. The democratic foundation of this conservation model has made it the most successful in the world, and the OLAP will seek to increase access for multiple opportunities throughout the state and especially near metropolitan areas, for species with limited opportunity (like pheasant), and for controlled youth hunts.
Another core principle of the OLAP is to include and reward conservation-minded landowners. American conservationist Aldo Leopold said that “Conservation will ultimately boil down to rewarding the private landowner who conserves the public interest”. The OLAP team met with landowner groups throughout the state to give them a major voice in how the program was designed, and the program is designed to give landowners the flexibility to maintain their current farming or ranching practices while providing sporting opportunities. Enrolled landowners will be compensated based on enrolled acres, location, access type, and contract length. Additional compensation is available for properties enrolled in conservation programs, such as CRP, to further reward landowners making efforts to conserve and sustain wildlife. In addition, a bonus is available to multiple landowners to form local cooperatives to provide multiple opportunities in an area.
Almost anyone who owns or leases land can qualify, and ideal properties include CRP-enrolled grassland, native rangeland, weedy crop stubble, forests, riparian corridors, wetland areas, and wildlife-friendly field buffers. Property boundaries are posted with signs, and parking areas will have informational signs indicating access dates and allowed activities. Enrolled landowners are accorded limited liability by existing state laws, and game wardens will periodically patrol OLAP properties. Landowners retain the right to temporarily deny access while ranching or agricultural activities are occurring. Access is limited to foot traffic only, and vehicles are prohibited.
No additional permit is required by sportspersons to access OLAP walk-in areas, however hunting and fishing licenses are required, respectively, unless a person is exempt. An online atlas of OLAP walk-in areas is available on the OLAP webpage, and sportspersons can stay up to date with property enrollment by monitoring the webpage and/or following the OLAP Facebook page.
Opening September 1, 2017, the OLAP is a great way for landowners to earn extra income and support Oklahoma’s conservation heritage.
This material is based upon work supported by the Natural Resources Conservation Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, under number 69-3A75-16-513. All opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.