What is the Missouri Outdoor Recreational Access Program (MRAP)?
MRAP is a voluntary program that offers private landowners annual incentive payments for opening their land to public access for outdoor recreational activities such as hunting, fishing, and wildlife viewing.
How did MRAP get started?
The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) received a three-year grant for $1.1 million from the U.S. Department of Agriculture as part of the 2014 Farm Bill, through the Voluntary Public Access – Habitat Incentive Program (VPA-HIP). Funding is currently available to enroll up to 10,000 acres.
What am I required to do if I enroll my land?
Participating landowners are required to do the following:
- Allow public access on enrolled tracts of land in accordance to the access option of their choosing.
- Allow for the policing and monitoring of all enrolled acres by MDC agents and employees.
- Allow MDC to establish a bulletin board at the property access point for the purposes of collecting user information and conveying area use information.
- Arrange the posting of the property boundary with signs supplied by MDC. (Landowners have the option to have MDC staff to install the signs.)
- Maintain any areas of quality habitat present on the property at the time of enrollment.
- Register as a Missouri Vendor.
Can I determine the type of activities allowed on my land?
Yes. Upon enrollment, the participating landowner selects one of the following six public access options that works best for them. All MRAP areas are open for walk-in public access from one hour before sunrise until one hour after sunset.
- All access hunting and fishing: This is the most open access option. Public users may pursue hunting and fishing under statewide regulations throughout the year.
- Archery hunting: Public users can archery hunt all species eligible for take with archery methods under statewide regulations. Access is provided from Sept. 15 to Feb. 15 and during the spring turkey seasons.
- Fishing: This option only allows fishing in designated waters under statewide regulations throughout the year.
- Small game and turkey hunting: This option only allows hunting turkey and certain small game species under statewide regulations. Hunters can only pursue turkeys, frogs, rabbits, squirrels, quail, pheasants, rails, snipes, doves, woodcocks, and waterfowl. Access is provided during the legal seasons of these species.
- Wildlife viewing: Public users may hike, photograph, and enjoy nature throughout the year. All hunting and fishing activities are prohibited.
- Youth hunting and fishing: Accompanied by an adult, youths (under the age of 16) may pursue both game and fish under statewide regulations throughout the year. Adults are not allowed to participate.
Can I apply for more than one access option?
No. A landowner cannot offer the same acres for more than one type of access per agreement period. However, a landowner can have multiple agreements, with different options on differing tracts of land.
What are the authorized public uses of MRAP properties?
MRAP properties are open to foot traffic only. All activities other than the authorized access uses such as hunting, fishing, or wildlife viewing are prohibited.
These banned activities include, but not limited to:
- target shooting
- riding motorized vehicles (snowmobiles, ATVs, motor bikes, etc.)
- drinking alcohol
- lighting fireworks
- horseback riding
- mountain biking
- and dog training
All equipment and gear must be “carry -in, carry-out” daily.
Am I required to allow parking on my property?
Unless the landowner offers a suitable parking area on the property, public users will park along county roadsides. If there is no safe or reasonable parking option along a county roadside, then the landowner must provide a parking area on the property to be eligible for enrollment.
Why would I want to participate in this program?
- MRAP provides landowners with an opportunity to generate extra income by opening their land for public recreation. Most annual payments will be $15-$25/acre.
- There are special incentives available for enhancing the wildlife habitat on the property.
- Landowners enrolled in this program are offered liability protection by the Missouri Recreational Use Immunity Statutes. This immunity is not available to landowners who have private hunting leases or charge fees for hunting or fishing.
- The participating landowner may continue to hunt, fish, and farm on the property. In addition, the landowner is not limited to the activities allowed by the selected public access option.
Will the number of people using my land be monitored or restricted?
Public users will be free to access the property as they please during the open periods. While the number of people using the property will not be restricted or controlled, public users are asked to self-register at the designated property entry points prior to entering the property. If a landowner is concerned about the number of people who might use the property, he/she might consider one of the more restrictive public access options such as youth or archery only.
Can I “upgrade” my access?
Yes. At the end of the agreement year, you may be eligible to upgrade to a higher form of access, i.e. small game and turkey upgraded to all access hunting and fishing.
What is the commitment length?
The standard landowner commitment period is three years.
If I enroll my land into MRAP, will the public contact me about accessing my land?
No. Public users will be free to access the property without notifying the property owner. Participating landowner information will not be provided to the public.
Is any landowner eligible to participate in MRAP?
Any private landowner, regardless of legal residence, is eligible to participate. However, landowners accepted into the program must register as a Missouri Vendor in order to receive annual incentive payments. In addition, any offered land must have public road frontage to allow for legal access to the property by the public. Lastly, lands offered for wildlife viewing access must be located within certain urban zones and within counties with limited public availability.
Is there a minimum property size requirement?
Yes. You must have a tract that is at least 40 contiguous acres in size, unless you are applying for the fishing only access. Fishing only access offers must contain a minimum of 1 combined pond acre or access to a fishable stream.
Are all types of cover and habitats on my farm eligible for enrollment?
Enrolled properties may contain a variety of cover types including forests, pastures, hayfields, ponds, crop fields, and wetlands. However, at least 20 percent of offered tracts must contain quality wildlife habitat at the time of application. This generally means that wildlife-friendly practices have been installed such as native grass establishment or forest stand improvement. However, unimproved natural cover types may also qualify as quality habitat based on a field evaluation.
Fishing only offers are not subject to this requirement. For fishing only offers, eligible waters include stocked ponds or lakes and fishable streams. Ponds must be at least 8 feet deep, protected from livestock, and aquatic vegetation may not exceed 50 percent of the surface area. Stream conditions such as size, depth, structure, and accessibility must be adequate to support fishing as determined by an MDC planner.
If I enroll my land, will I be required to make wildlife habitat improvements?
While habitat improvement practices will generally not be required on enrolled lands, special incentives are offered to encourage landowners to implement habitat improvements. These incentives include annual payment bonuses and enhanced cost share rates (up to 90 percent). In addition, applicants who commit to making habitat improvements will receive priority ranking points.
Are lands enrolled in other programs such as CRP or WRP eligible for MRAP?
Yes. As long as the other program doesn’t restrict the chosen MRAP activities (hunting, fishing, etc.).
May I continue to farm or manage my enrolled acres?
Yes. Participating landowners may continue most normal operations on enrolled properties with the following exceptions:
- Farming and other land management practices may not destroy or negatively impact the designated quality habitat acres or fishing opportunities (for fishing only access areas).
- Program participants can only hay and graze quality habitat pasture acres after the Department has approved their wildlife friendly haying or grazing plan. If a plan is in place, the program participant will be allowed to hay up to 33 percent of the quality habitat pasture acres in any given year.
- All livestock are to be removed from quality habitat pasture acres from Sept. 1 to Feb. 15. Program participants are advised to remove livestock from all other MRAP acres during hunting seasons to avoid injury from or to livestock.
- Livestock are not permitted on forested acres designated as quality habitat or ungrazed during the property evaluation.
- Livestock are not permitted on fishing only access area impoundments or streams.
- Program participants may leave standing harvestable crops into the fall hunting season, however potential damage to the crop is at the participant’s own risk.
- Logging operations on designated quality habitat acres must be coordinated through the conservation planner. Logging on all other MRAP land is permitted except during the spring youth and regular turkey season and during November (restriction does not apply to wildlife viewing or fishing only access areas). Waivers will be considered on a case-by-case basis.
May I hunt and fish on my enrolled property?
Yes. In fact, the MRAP public access rules do not apply to the participating landowner. For example, a participating landowner may deer hunt on property that he/she enrolls under the small game and turkey hunting or wildlife viewing access option. In addition, the landowner may grant others written permission to engage in activities not permitted by the designated public access option.
May I deny someone access to my enrolled property?
A participating landowner may only deny someone access to the property if they witness or learn about unauthorized activities or behavior that reasonably threatens public health, safety, or property. The landowner may not deny someone access simply to limit the number of people on the land.
How do I enroll in MRAP?
The first step is to submit a completed MRAP application. All applications on file will be periodically evaluated for enrollment as funding is available. An MDC representative will contact you to discuss your application and arrange a site visit to conduct an offer evaluation, determine eligibility, and calculate the potential payment amount.
How do I register as a Missouri Vendor?
Participating landowners must self-register online through the MissouriBUYS website. During the development of the MRAP access agreement, landowners will receive vendor registration instructions, which provide step-by-step directions.
How are offered properties selected for enrollment?
A competitive ranking system will be utilized to select offers for enrollment. Preference will be given to properties located in areas with limited public land availability or near major urban centers. Tracts will also be ranked based on the amount of quality habitat present, location relative to other priority geographies, planned habitat improvements, and selected public access option. Landowners will be notified if their offer is pre-approved for enrollment.
If my land offer is pre-approved, when will my agreement begin?
MRAP agreement start dates may vary.
Am I required to enroll my entire property?
No. Portions of a property may be enrolled as long as the acreage meets the eligibility requirements (size, habitat, parking, etc.). However, there must be some type of clear feature such as a stream, fence, or woodland edge than can be used to delineate the boundary of the enrolled acres. In addition, buffers around features such as homes, barns, or feedlots may also be excluded from the enrolled acres.
How will the amount of my annual payment be determined?
Formulas for determining annual payment amounts will be dependent on the MRAP access option selected as described below (note that the dollar amounts listed below are subject to change at any time).
All access hunting and fishing, youth hunting and fishing, small game and turkey hunting, archery hunting, and wildlife viewing: The total annual payment for these access options will consist of a base payment plus potential bonuses. The base payment is dependent on the selected access option.
|Access Options||Payment Per Acre|
|All access hunting and fishing||$15|
|Small game and turkey hunting||$11|
|Youth only hunting and fishing||$11|
In addition to the base payments above, these land offers may also be eligible for the following payment bonuses.
|Payment Bonus Options||Payment Per Acre|
|Quality habitat acres bonus||$10|
|Urban zone or pilot county bonus||$3|
|MDC priority geography bonus||$3|
|Tier 1 non-quality habitat acres bonus||$2|
|Committed habitat improvement bonus||$2-5|
Fishing only access: The total annual payment for fishing only access properties will also consist of a base payment plus potential bonuses. The base payment will be based on the acreage of impoundments or length of streams being enrolled using the following formulas.
|Base Payment Options||Payment|
|Impoundments||$300 plus $100 per acre of impoundment|
|Streams||$300 plus $500 per mile of stream|
In addition to the base payments above, fishing-only access offers may be eligible for the following payment bonuses:
|Payment Bonus Options||Payment|
|Urban zone||20 percent increase|
|MDC priority geography bonus||10 percent increase|
If I enroll my land into MRAP, when will I receive payment?
Payment will be disbursed at the beginning of the agreement year, after the following:
- approval of the MRAP agreement by the program manager
- verification that the landowner is registered as a Missouri Vendor
- installation of MRAP sign posting and bulletin board
Is my MRAP access payment taxable?
All MRAP access payments over $600 are considered reportable income. Consequently, participating landowners receiving MRAP compensation greater than $600 will receive an IRS 1099 tax form at the end of the year from the Missouri Office of Administration.
What happens if a public user is injured, or causes an injury or property damage while on my property? Am I liable?
The Missouri Recreational Use Immunity Statutes (sections 537.345 to 537.348, Revised Missouri Statutes) offers liability protection to landowners participating in MRAP. This law does not protect landowners who act negligently, so every participating landowner should read the statutes completely. It is the participant’s responsibility to know and comply with the requirements of the law in order to receive the liability protection it provides.
Will MDC pay for any damages that may occur on the property while it’s enrolled in MRAP?
No. MDC will not pay for damages caused by public users.
Will my land be open year round?
The property will be open to the public all year if you select the all access, youth only, wildlife viewing, or fishing only option. If the small game and turkey hunting option is selected then the property will be open to the public only during the listed hunting seasons of the species permitted. Archery access areas will be open from Sept. 1 to Feb. 15 and during the youth and regular spring turkey seasons.
Will the property be open to the public during firearms deer season if I select the fishing, archery, wildlife viewing, or small game and turkey hunting option?
What do I do if I run into an issue or conflict on my land?
All participating landowners will be provided with the contact information of their local MDC conservation agent. Never address a potentially dangerous issue yourself; always contact the agent first. The local conservation agent will have the property maps and landowner contact information, and they will periodically patrol enrolled lands.
What happens if I want to terminate my agreement?
Either party can terminate the MRAP agreement upon 30 days written notice. However, any prepaid access payments unearned as a result of the early termination of the agreement must be refunded to the Department. Upon termination of the agreement, the participant shall reimburse the Department a pro-rated amount of the received access payment. Similarly, if a transfer of ownership occurs of the enrolled property during the agreement period, the agreement will be terminated and the program participant will be required to refund the pro rata portion of the annual access payment received.
How will properties be posted in the field?
All MRAP properties will be posted with access-specific color-coded signs along roadways to mark the property. A bulletin board will also be constructed near the entry/parking area of every MRAP property. Information posted on the bulletin board will include a property map, area rules, and self-registration materials. In addition, property boundaries will be posted with “End of Public Use Area” signs on all MRAP areas except fishing only properties. MDC will supply all signage materials. Participating landowners may install the signs or request for the MDC staff to complete the installation.
How will the public know which properties are enrolled and how to find them?
Maps of enrolled lands will be posted to the MDC website. Signs will be placed along roadsides to mark MRAP properties.