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PIERRE, S.D. – Over one million acres of private land leased for public opportunity awaits hunters as they take the field this autumn, and the Game, Fish and Parks Department wants to know how well the land is serving the public.

The Walk-in Area program was started in 1987 as a way to pay private landowners to allow additional public hunting opportunity on their land. Payments to landowners are based both on acreage and on the quality of habitat. There are 1.3 million acres enrolled and GFP has budgeted $2.15 million for the 2009 Walk-in Area program.

“This is the first year of what will probably become a three-year evaluation. We want to get a good grasp on how many people are using Walk-in Areas, what areas are they using, and what they are using them for,” GFP Secretary Jeff Vonk said.

GFP will be focusing particular attention on the northwestern part of the state with a more in-depth evaluation of the Walk-in Areas there. GFP staff will record use of select walk-in areas and leave a survey card on cars parked there, or when possible will conduct interviews of hunters returning to their vehicles after using an area.

Information will also be gathered from six additional parts of the state, although personal interviews will not be conducted in these areas. “We will be leaving a survey card on vehicles,” Vonk said. “It is very important in our refinement and improvement of this program that hunters complete our questionnaire and return it as promptly as possible.”

Individuals who are surveyed as part of the process will be asked questions concerning what they were hunting, how often they hunt Walk-in Areas, and how they assessed their experience on this particular Walk-in Area.

 

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