Mower seeks more walk-in access

Published 7:59 am Thursday, April 18, 2019

Mower County landowners for the second-straight year can earn extra revenue by signing up by April 30 to allow their private land to be open for public hunting nine months of the year.

Interested landowners should contact the Mower Soil & Water Conservation District office in Austin to discuss the state’s Walk-In Access (WIA) program, which is offered in 47 counties by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR). If approved, landowners allow their enrolled land to be open for public hunting between Sept. 1 and May 31.

Under the DNR program, landowners must have at least 40 acres of private land or it must be contiguous with another WIA parcel that is at least 40 acres. Priority is given to land enrolled in a conservation program, such as the federal Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) or the state’s Reinvest In Minnesota (RIM).

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In 2018, Mower Soil & Water Conservation District entered into an agreement with the DNR to add Mower County to the WIA program. This led to two parcels totaling 185 acres of private land being enrolled near Adams and Racine.

Minnesota’s WIA program provides public hunting on private land while compensating landowners for allowing access to hunters. Through WIA, nearly 27,000 acres of private land have been open since Sept. 1 for public hunting at about 230 sites in western and south-central Minnesota and will remain open through May 31.

While most enrolled WIA parcels are grassland and wetlands, some river bottom and other forested parcels have been accepted by the DNR for the program, providing an opportunity to harvest deer, turkey and other woodland species on WIA land.

Payments to enrolled landowners – who are provided liability protection by the state – are based on number of acres enrolled, length of agreement and proximity to state Wildlife Management Areas or Waterfowl Protection Areas.

Land not enrolled in a conservation program might be eligible if high-quality, natural cover exists and is maintained by the landowner. Property within 500 feet of a home or corral occupied by livestock cannot be enrolled in WIA, unless it is occupied by the cooperator or his/her livestock.

Enrolled parcels must be accessible from a public road, their habitat must be maintained through the WIA enrollment period, and landowners or the state may terminate the WIA contract at any time (effective 30 days after written notice is received).

To legally access WIA land, hunters must have a WIA Validation, which is available to purchase for $3. The fee does not cover costs associated with purchasing access, installing boundary signs or providing online or printed maps of the enrolled WIA properties. The validation fee’s purpose is to help the DNR monitor how many hunters are using WIA land.

Only small inclusions of cropland or hay land may be present in WIA parcels.

Rules for the WIA program include:

• WIA sites are for public hunting only;

• Motorized vehicles are not allowed on WIA properties;

• Individuals with a WIA validation can hunt from 30 minutes before sunrise to 90 minutes after sunset during open hunting seasons, with no landowner contact necessary from Sept. 1 to May 31;

• No target practice, trapping, dog training, camping horseback riding or fires are allowed by the public;

• WIA landowners retain the right to engage in or give written permission for another individual to engage in those activities listed above and other limited activities that do not impede public hunting, at any time of the year;

• Parking is along roads or in designated parking areas. Vehicles must not block field entrances; and

• All hunting rules and regulations apply on WIA land and will be enforced by DNR conservation officers.

For more information, landowners can contact Mower SWCD at 507-434-2603, ext. 5, or go online at