Habitat & Conservation  |  08/23/2023

Pheasants Forever Unveils New Hunting Access Program in South Dakota


Setting ambitious goal to enroll 10K new acres of access per year to support rural economies

Pheasants Forever is proud to announce a new outdoor access initiative with the goal of enrolling 10,000 acres per year in South Dakota. The Public Access to Habitat (PATH) program will accelerate the statewide enrollment of lands in long-term conservation programs while bolstering participation in South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks’ (GFP) Walk-In Area (WIA) program. The inaugural year, fully funded at $250K through national sponsors onX Hunt and South Dakota Tourism, will open enrollment to landowners starting on September 1, 2023.

“PATH has all the ingredients to be a major statewide success for landowners, wildlife, hunters and rural communities in The Pheasant Capital,” said Matt Gottlob, Pheasants Forever’s state coordinator in South Dakota. “Through our tremendous partnerships with onX Hunt, South Dakota Tourism and GFP, this initiative can dramatically expand habitat and access in the world’s premier upland hunting destination. We view Public Access to Habitat as a win-win for landowners and hunters alike and designed it to be scalable for years to come.”

Additive to the current GFP Walk-In Area program and administered in a similar manner, PATH provides an additional sign-up incentive of up to $25 per acre, paid in advance, in return for 10 years of undisturbed habitat and access on private lands. Landowners work directly with biologists from Pheasants Forever or GFP for site evaluation and implementation, following approval from a review panel. When combined with other financial incentives (signing bonus and payment for Walk-in Access + conservation program payment), PATH enrollments pay landowners a competitive rate for a decade of habitat and access stewardship.

“Voluntary public access programs like PATH are what help make South Dakota a premier upland hunting destination,” said onX Hunt wingshooting manger, Ben Brettingen. “An impressive 1.4M acres, or nearly 30 percent of the state’s huntable grounds are accessible thanks to these unique agreements between private landowners and outdoorsmen facilitated by organizations like Pheasants Forever and South Dakota GFP. We’re proud to support Pheasants Forever and their mission of habitat conservation and access – helping expand hunting opportunity for the future and preserving sporting traditions for years to come.”

Public Access to Habitat Guidelines:

  • CRP and high-quality undisturbed habitat are incentivized at a base rate of up to $25/acre.
  • Habitat must remain undisturbed annually, outside of required management practices
  • Shelterbelts, wetlands, CRP, easements, existing grass qualify for the program
  • Managed rangelands are also eligible with similar payment rates to GFP
  • Minimum PATH contract length of 10 years
  • All PATH enrollments require a GFP Walk-In Area contract
  • Managed rangelands/working lands are also eligible with payment rates similar to GFP rates

For more information about the Public Access to Habitat initiative with examples of funding for landowners, click here to visit the webpage. For landowners interested in enrollment opportunities, find your nearest biologist by visiting pheasantsforever.org/findaBiologist.

Thanks to the inaugural year of financial support from onX and South Dakota Tourism, Pheasants Forever is actively fundraising for the next 10,000 acres of enrollment. For individuals and businesses interested in sponsoring PATH acres in South Dakota, contact South Dakota development officer Jake Hanson at (605) 880-1659.