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Open Fields and Waters Program

Pheasant season is a great time for hunters to utilize Open Fields and Waters public lands.
Pheasant season is a great time for hunters to utilize Open Fields and Waters public lands. Photo by Julie Geiser/NEBRASKAland Magazine/NGPC

Hunters and anglers are always on the lookout for places to enjoy their sport – with nearly 800,000 acres of state and federal areas already public accessible in Nebraska, the public access program for hunting and fishing on private lands increases the amount of land available for public use.

Nebraska Game and Parks Commission (NGPC) staff and Pheasants Forever work closely with hundreds of private landowners who voluntarily participate in private land access programs. The Open Fields and Waters (OFW) program was created as a component of the NGPC Recruitment, Development and Retention Plan, which seeks to increase hunter and angler participation in Nebraska. This program provides financial incentives for allowing public access and the opportunity for private landowners to work with NGPC biologists to improve wildlife habitat. OFW opens private lands to hunters and anglers for walk-in access.

These OFW enrollments have opened more than 276,000 acres of private land including 400 acres of open waters and 41 miles of river to public hunting and fishing. The OFW program is funded through Pittman Robertson Wildlife Restoration dollars, game cash, Voluntary Public Access-Habitat Improvement Program, Pheasants Forever, the Farm Service Agency, and the National Wild Turkey Federation.

OFW enrollments have opened more than 276,000 acres of private land including 400 acres of open waters and 41 miles of river to public hunting and fishing. Photo by Colby Kerber/NGPC.
OFW enrollments have opened more than 276,000 acres of private land including 400 acres of open waters and 41 miles of river to public hunting and fishing. Photo by Colby Kerber/NGPC.

NGPC publishes an annual Public Access Atlas, which includes information on land enrolled in the Open Fields and Waters program and information on public state and federal lands open to hunting and fishing. Printed atlases are available where hunting and fishing permits are sold.

In the last few months, 30,000 acres have been added to the online version of the Public Access Atlas. The additional acres came from land enrolled in the OFW’s Small Grain Stubble Management and Access Program.

To see the updated atlas visit the NGPC web site, hover over the hunting tab and click “where to hunt.” Once there, click on “Online Map Atlas” to view the updated pages. On the site are printable maps, the Public Access Atlas booklet, Google Earth files, and mobile app instructions. These are all useful tools for hunters and anglers seeking lands for walk-in access.

About julie geiser

Julie Geiser is a Public Information Officer and NEBRASKAland Regional Editor based out of North Platte, where she was born and still happily resides. Geiser worked for the commission previously for over 10 years as an outdoor education instructor – teaching people of all ages about Nebraska’s outdoor offerings. She also coordinates the Becoming an Outdoors Woman program for Nebraska Game and Parks Commission (NGPC). Geiser went on to work in marketing and writing an outdoor column for the North Platte Telegraph before returning to NGPC in her current position. She loves spending time outdoors with her family and getting others involved in her passions of hunting, fishing, camping, boating, hiking and enjoying Nebraska’s great outdoors.

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