Hays City’s R9 property enrolled in Walk In Hunting Access Program

Tiger Media Network

Thursday’s Hays City Commission meeting featured R9 Property Manager Chris Smith, who presented about the Walk In Hunting Access (WIHA) Program and the enrollment of the city’s R9 property in the program.

Smith said Kansas ranks 49th in the percentage of publicly owned lands versus privately owned lands. Only two percent of land in Kansas is publicly owned. This leaves a relatively small amount of public land for hunters to hunt on. 

To combat this, in 1995, the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks developed and implemented the WIHA program. By enrolling land in WIHA, hunters can use the land to hunt and landowners receive payment. 

“The program’s been a huge success,” Smith said. “To date, there’s more than a million acres enrolled and a lot of states have copied Kansas’ program.”

Smith said hunting and related activities make a significant impact on the state’s economy with hunters contributing approximately $600 million to the state’s economy. 

“The WIHA program not only benefits land owners and hunters, but the program can also play an important role in supporting local communities and businesses,” Smith said. 

The city’s R9 property is eligible for WIHA and joined the program this year

The city was presented with three different contract lengths: November 1st through January 31st with a payout amount of $24,398, September 1st through January 31st with a payout of $36,598, or September 1st through May 31st with a payout of $50,017.

“We chose the option with the shortest contract length this first year just to see how well the program works for the city,” Smith said. 

Smith said if there are no issues this year, they will look at choosing a longer contract period next year. This period includes quail hunting season and the property is one of the top five quail survey locations in the state. 

“There are a lot of quail out there so it’s going to be some prime quail hunting,” Smith said.

With 6,800 acres, the R9 property is now the seventh-largest contiguous WIHA tract out of the state’s 4,197 tracts. This addition also nearly doubles the amount of WIHA acres available in Edwards County. The Nature Conservancy also enrolled a 6,900-acre ranch in the program. That ranch is about a mile and a half south of the R9 property and falls within Kiowa County. 

“With the addition of the city’s R9 property and the nearby Nature Conservancy property in the Walk In Hunting Program, Edwards County and the surrounding communities should receive a larger slice of that $600 million pie,” Smith said. 

To prepare the property for public hunting, a few improvements were needed for vehicle access. 

“Wildlife and Parks has been great to work through this process,” Smith said. “Not only did they provide manpower, but they also provided some extra equipment.”

Wichita Pheasants Forever Chapter 578 donated $2,000 towards the construction of the south parking lot. 

Mayor Shaun Musil applauded the work done at R9. 

“I think this just shows we’re going to do everything possible to make this happen, but we’re also going to do everything possible to be good neighbors,” Musil said. 

Other items discussed at the meeting:

  • The 2024 Health Insurance Plan for city employees was reviewed
  • A bid from Nowak Construction for the realignment of a 10” water main
  • An ordinance was passed establishing exit 157 24-7 as a Tax Increment Financing (TIF) district
  • Service awards were presented to city employees

The next City Commission Meeting will be at 4:00 p.m. on November 9 at City Hall.