MDC offers private landowners payments for public access

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HANNIBAL, Mo. -- A new program offered by the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) will offer payments to private landowners for public access for hunting, fishing and wildlife viewing. The voluntary Missouri Outdoor Recreational Access Program (MRAP) also offers financial incentives for wildlife habitat improvement on enrolled lands. The program primarily focuses on enrolling lands in northern Missouri, where public access opportunities are generally more limited.

“This is a chance for property owners to generate additional income off the land,” said Jeff Esely, MDC MRAP manager. “Participating landowners also have the chance to share their land with others.”

The enrollment application period for the program began on June 1 and will close on July 15. Approved landowners will be notified in August with enrolled lands becoming open for public use this fall. Funding for the program is provided largely by a $1.1 million federal grant from the USDA Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program. MDC offered a pilot MRAP program last year in northeast Missouri and enrolled more than 1,600 acres. This is the first year for a statewide program. MDC plans to enroll as many as 10,000 acres.

Offered lands must meet eligibility requirements for acreage, habitat or fishing access, depending on the type of public use that is allowed. Landowners can choose from six public access options: All Access Hunting and Fishing, Small Game and Turkey Hunting, Youth Only Hunting and Fishing, Archery Hunting, Fishing Only, or Wildlife Viewing.

For example, a landowner who wants to reserve deer hunting opportunities could opt to allow only small game and turkey hunting, Esely said. A property owner with unique habitat such as a wetland might choose to allow wildlife viewing only, providing an opportunity for birders.

Landowners interested in making wildlife habitat improvements on their property gain extra points in rankings used for selecting tracts for the program, Esely said. Plus, up to 90 percent cost share funds are available for habitat improvements. The program is a good opportunity for landowners to get financial help that makes habitat improvements possible such as establishing native grasses and wildflowers, timber stand improvement or planting trees useful to wildlife.

Missouri’s Recreational Use Immunity Law offers protection to landowners from any legal liability for providing free access to the public. MRAP lands are open to foot traffic only and area users self-register at designated property entry points. Parking typically occurs along roadsides. Public access is only for types of use agreed upon by the landowner and posted at entry points.

Annual payment rates will be determined by the access type selected by the landowner, amount of quality habitat available, committed participation length, and other factors. Most landowners will likely earn $15-$25 per acre each year they participate. Payment rates for fishing-only access will be on an adjusted scale and will be based largely on impoundment size or stream length.  

For more information and an MRAP application, visit or contact local MDC private lands staff. Find local MDC staff at under "Contact & Engage."