State looks to increase public access to private land

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COLUMBIA - The Missouri Department of Conservation is offering a new program to private landowners.

Private landowners will now be able to apply for the Missouri Outdoor Recreational Access Program (MRAP), which would make part of their private land open to the public.

Citizens would be able to hunt, fish and view wildlife on the newly public land. 

Currently in Missouri 98% of land is privately owned said Shawn Gruber, Outreach and Education Regional Supervisor.

The MDC is looking to "enroll up to 10,000 acres of land with a focus in north Missouri and also in urban areas, so anything in the Columbia area would certainly be a priority," he said. 

Private landowners who make their land public would "likely earn up to $15-25 per acre each year they participate," according to the MDC. 

The MDC received a $1.1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Habitat Incentive program said Gruber. 

"We're looking for landowners who might not be using that property to the fullest extent from a wildlife perspective. They might not be hunting, they might not be fishing or using that property for wildlife viewing opportunities. We're trying to link up those landowners with this program to get more citizens involved in nature and ultimately enhance the wildlife habitat at the same time," Gruber said.

In order to qualify a landowner must have at least "40 acres of land or at least one-acre for fishing access," and "20% of the land should be wildlife friendly already," he said. 

Applications are being accepted starting June 1 until July 15 at MRAP's website and applicants will find out in August if their land is approved and enrolled in the program.