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Open Fields and Waters Program seeking new enrollments

The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission is looking to provide additional hunting and fishing opportunities on private lands through its Open Fields and Waters Program.

Landowners willing to allow public, walk-in access for hunting or fishing can receive annual, per-acre payments through the program. Participating landowners are afforded liability protection through the Nebraska Recreational Liability Act. Additional financial incentives often are available for habitat improvements, such as Conservation Reserve Program enrollment or management upgrades.

Game and Parks primarily is seeking to add the following types of enrollments, but all properties offering high-quality hunting or fishing opportunities will be considered:

Conservation Reserve Program – CRP fields provide excellent hunting opportunities for upland game birds and acres in any part of the state will be considered. Landowners can receive up to $10 per acre for CRP, depending upon location and habitat quality.

Wetland Reserve Program easements – Landowners who have Wetland Reserve Program easements can earn up to $15 per acre for accessible portions of WRP easements with suitable habitats.

Grasslands – High-quality grassland habitat that provides mixed-bag hunting opportunities for upland game birds and big game species are being sought statewide. Properties in the Sandhills supporting prairie grouse, mule deer and/or antelope are a priority, along with sites in south-central and southeastern Nebraska that offer quail and/or white-tailed deer hunting opportunities.

Woodlands – Heavily timbered areas along riparian corridors and those with canyon-like topography are being pursued in many areas. Rates for high-quality woodlands range from $5 to $15 per acre, depending on habitat quality and location.

Fishing access – Ponds, lakes, warm-water streams or rivers and cool-water streams with trout are potential targets. Payment rates are per surface acre on lakes and ponds and per stream mile on streams or rivers.

For more information about Open Fields and Waters, visit OutdoorNebraska.org/OFW. Interested landowners should contact a biologist at their nearest Game and Parks district office or service center (OutdoorNebraska.org/Locations).

Since 2016, more than 147,000 acres have been added to Open Fields and Waters and current statewide enrollment is at an all-time high. More than 850 private landowners participated in the program in 2021-22. Those landowners provided walk-in hunting and fishing opportunities across 381,000-plus land acres, more than 500 acres of ponds and lakes and more than 42 stream miles.

Funding for the Open Fields and Waters Program primarily is provided by a grant obtained through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Voluntary Public Access – Habitat Incentive Program and Pittman-Robertson funds (Wildlife and Sportfish Restoration Act). In addition, Game and Parks uses funds from Habitat Stamp and hunting license sales, and contributions from partners to fund the program and increase opportunities for hunting, trapping and fishing on Nebraska’s private lands.

About Jerry Kane

Jerry Kane is the news manager with the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. He can be contacted at jerry.kane@nebraska.gov or 402-471-5008.

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