Quick Reads

Pheasants Forever launches new initiative to expand outdoor access in South Dakota

By: - August 23, 2023 11:37 am

All lands enrolled and impacted by the PATH program will be recognized with a P.A.T.H. sign in addition to the SDGFP WIA Sign on the property. (Courtesy of Pheasants Forever)

In an effort to enhance public outdoor access and support long-term land conservation, Pheasants Forever has unveiled a new program targeting 10,000 acres of land in South Dakota annually.

The new Public Access to Habitat (PATH) initiative aims to complement the current South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Walk-In Area program, which pays landowners about $1.50 to $2 per acre to enroll in the GF&P program, opening those acres to the public.

The PATH program offers landowners up to an additional $25 per acre sign-up bonus ($4,000 for a quarter section), ensuring 10 years of quality habitat and public access on their private lands. Biologists will work with landowners to ensure enrolled acres are productive for wildlife.

A Pheasants Forever official said the program will help retain South Dakota’s status as the top state for pheasants.

“PATH has all the ingredients to be a major success for landowners, wildlife, hunters and rural communities in The Pheasant Capital,” said Matt Gottlob, Pheasants Forever’s state coordinator in South Dakota, in a written statement. “We view Public Access to Habitat as a win-win for landowners and hunters alike and designed it to be scalable for years to come.”

Starting Sept. 1, local landowners will have the chance to enroll in the program.

Sponsors onX Hunt (a hunting GPS service) and South Dakota Tourism funded the initiative’s first year with a $250,000 grant. 

Ben Brettingen with onX Hunt said in a written statement, “We’re proud to support Pheasants Forever and their mission of habitat conservation and access – helping expand hunting opportunity for the future and preserving sporting traditions for years to come.”

For more information, talk to a local farm bill biologist, South Dakota private lands biologist, or local conservation officer.

PATH guidelines:

  • Landowners receive a base rate of $25 per acre for maintaining high-quality, undisturbed habitats.
  • Habitats, including shelterbelts, wetlands, conservation easements, and existing grass, should remain untouched annually, except for necessary management tasks (like emergency grazing for livestock)
  • The minimum contract length for PATH is 10 years.
  • All participants in PATH must also be enrolled in the GFP Walk-In Area contract.
SD_PATH_Program_FINAL_8.18.23 (1)



Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Joshua Haiar
Joshua Haiar

Joshua Haiar is a reporter based in Sioux Falls. Born and raised in Mitchell, he joined the Navy as a public affairs specialist after high school and then earned a degree from the University of South Dakota. Prior to joining South Dakota Searchlight, Joshua worked for five years as a multimedia specialist and journalist with South Dakota Public Broadcasting.