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Incentives available for landowners to improve pheasant habitat, hunting access

CHADRON, Neb. – The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission is urging Panhandle landowners to enroll in programs to improve habitat for upland game birds and other wildlife while providing public hunting access. The programs are key components of the Commission’s Berggren Plan, a five-year initiative for improving pheasant hunting in Nebraska.

“These programs not only provide incredible conservation benefits, but also help families get into the field to enjoy the state’s hunting heritage,” said Matt Steffl, the Commission’s northwest district wildlife manager for private lands. “As a bonus, the programs provide extra income for producers and landowner liability has been addressed by the Nebraska Recreation Liability Act.”

The Commission is especially targeting landowners within specified pheasant management areas, the eight sections throughout the state identified with best conditions and potential for the popular game birds. In the Panhandle, those areas exist in all of Box Butte, Cheyenne and Deuel counties, and parts of Dawes, Garden and Sheridan counties.

The incentives are helping increase acreage in Open Fields and Waters, the Commission’s flagship program for opening private lands to hunters and anglers. With that program, the properties are listed in the Commission’s annual Public Access Atlas and landowners receive an annual payment based on the quality of habitat and value to hunters.

Following are some of the programs available to Panhandle landowners. The funds are limited, so landowners are encouraged to sign up as soon as possible.

Tall Wheat Stubble – Wheat producers may receive $3 per acre for providing access for the coming pheasant season and leaving stubble at least 14 inches high from harvest through Jan. 31. They also may receive an additional 50 cents per acre for leaving stubble for adjacent crops at that height.

Conservation Reserve Program Acres – Landowners in the specified pheasant management areas are eligible for up to $10 per acre for providing hunting access, depending on existing habitat conditions.

Habitat Incentive Program – This program provides payment for landowners seeking to manage acres under contract or establishing cover for new CRP contracts. It is in addition to a 50 percent cost-share provided by the USDA’s Farm Service Agency. By working with Commission biologists to develop a habitat plan, landowners may receive up to $40 per acre. Landowners enrolled in this program also will receive an annual per-acre payment for providing hunting access for five years.

More information about these programs and others is available on the Commission’s website, outdoornebraska.gov/landownerhabitatprograms and outdoornebraska.org/pheasantplan. People also may consult their nearest Commission private lands biologist: Matt Steffl, Alliance, 308-763-2940, matt.steffl@nebraska.gov; or Shelley Steffl, Chadron, 308-432-6183, shelley.steffl@nebraska.gov.

About Justin Haag

Justin Haag has served the Commission as a public information officer in the Panhandle since 2013. His duties include serving as regional editor for NEBRASKAland Magazine. Haag was raised in southwestern Nebraska, where he developed a love for fishing, hunting and other outdoor pursuits. After earning a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Chadron State College in 1996, he worked four years as an editor and reporter at newspapers in Chadron and McCook. Prior to joining the Commission in 2013, he worked 12 years as a communicator at Chadron State, serving as the institution’s media and public relations coordinator the last five. He and his wife, Cricket, live in Chadron, and have two children.

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