NCX Guides

Recreation Programs

Lease your land for limited recreational use like hunting, fishing, farm tours, camping, and more. 

Recreation programs are a great way to dip your toe into natural capital markets. For many landowners, recreation programs are a flexible and low-commitment way to start earning additional income from their land.

In this guide, we’ll explore the different types of recreation programs and how to decide which one is right for you and your land.

What Kinds of Recreation Programs are There?

A common misconception is that hunting leases are the only type of recreation program. But there are many different flavors of recreation programs.

  • 01 Guided experiences

    Farm and ranch tours can be popular and high revenue-per-acre ways to earn extra income from your land if you’re willing to put in the time to serve as a guide.  Other income streams can include horseback riding, foraging, and bird dog training.

  • 02 Camping

    From tents and RVs to “glamping” (for the uninitiated, that’s “glamorous camping”), you can often find people willing to pay to spend a few days on your land. You may be able to charge a premium for better accommodations or if your property provides exceptional outdoor experiences like hiking, cross country skiing, or birding.

  • 03 Hunting + Fishing

    These are some of the most common recreation programs and you may be able to bring in meaningful revenue from these leases. However, they do come with significant risks that are important to understand – especially if the hunters can’t tell the difference between a deer and your neighbor’s cows!


When Does a Recreation Program Start and Stop?

Flexibility is part of the beauty of most recreation programs.

Individual bookings tend to be short (from a few hours to a few days) and you can choose whether or not to accept new bookings at any time. The tradeoff is that your income may be unpredictable or vary seasonally. 

If you’re looking to smooth out some of the variation in your recreation program income, you can also consider longer leases with hunt clubs or other groups that want ongoing access to your land.

How Does a Recreation Program Work?

Until recently, most landowners did a “DIY” version of recreational leasing where they found local hunt clubs, hired a lawyer to write the lease contract, carried their own insurance, managed a bookings calendar, and handled billing and payment themselves. The property could be leased for any period of time, from just a few hours to a whole season. However, the overhead involved in managing this whole process usually created a preference for a smaller number of longer leases.

It’s still completely possible to run recreation programs yourself, but you might consider using an online platform for recreational leasing. These platforms do a lot of the work for you in exchange for a cut of your booking revenue. In return, they handle marketing, booking, and billing. They often provide insurance coverage for bookings made through their platform too.

NCX can help you find leasing platforms for listing your land. You can choose to list your property on multiple leasing platforms to maximize your bookings and revenue. Even if you’d prefer to do a DIY version of leasing, it might be worth checking current market rates. Outdoor recreation is a growing market and you might be leaving money on the table if you haven’t updated your rates in a while.

Why Do People Want to Visit Your Land?

Recent years have seen an increase in demand for hunting leases and other forms of recreation programs on private land. There’s a few factors that are driving demand. Some landowners would prefer to not have strangers on their property. If that’s you, then it’s likely that recreation programs aren’t a good fit for you and your land.


    Public Land is Becoming Overcrowded

    State and federal lands have traditionally been prime venues for outdoor recreation, but with a post-COVID surge in visitors, they don’t hold the same appeal they once did.

  • Vacation Rentals

    The Rise of “AirBnB for outdoor recreation”

    Many new recreation leasing platforms are emerging that both make it easier to lease your land and market to more outdoor enthusiasts.


    Cultural Changes Prioritize Time in Nature

    A rising urban population is increasingly seeking to find ways to spend more time outdoors. Bonus points if they can take a great Instagram photo!

Where Can Recreation Programs be Hosted?

Even small properties can host some form of recreation program, but the general rule is that better sites command hire prices. There are some obvious bare-minimum requirements like you need to have a farm to do a farm tour and you need to have a stocked body of water on your property if you want to offer a fishing lease.

You’ll also want to check your state and county regulations to make sure you are in compliance with local zoning policies and other rules.


Risks, Rewards, and Restrictions

Recreation programs are a great first step into natural capital markets because they tend to be low commitment and fairly low risk. The flipside is that the revenue from recreation programs tends to be lower than other programs. Your income may be highly variable or seasonal, although longer-term leases can help smooth that out.

The prices you can charge are going to be a function of how attractive your property is as well as the demand for recreation in your area. Properties with beautiful natural areas, lots of wildlife, and great facilities in popular areas can charge a premium. Whatever your prices, make sure that the payment terms are clear and cover basics like upfront deposits, payment methods, timing, and cancellation.

There are also a few downsides to be aware of. Whenever you have someone else on your property, liability is a key consideration. You can mitigate some risks by having clear rules for your guests including basics like closing gates and restrictions on dangerous activities. Also make sure that you have appropriate insurance coverage in case someone gets injured or property is damaged. Many leasing platforms include insurance coverage for bookings made through their platform.

Finally, make sure you understand the restrictions that come along with these leases. Are you still allowed to hunt the land? Does the lease reduce your ability to participate in other natural capital markets like forest carbon projects or conservation

Find the right program for you

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