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Open Fields and Waters Program seeking new enrollments

LINCOLN, Neb. – The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission is looking to add more hunting and fishing access opportunities through its Open Fields and Waters Program.

Landowners are encouraged to consider allowing public, walk-in access on their property for hunting or fishing through the program. In exchange, landowners receive per-acre annual payments and liability protection through the Nebraska Recreational Liability Act.

Game and Parks is seeking to add enrollments within the following target areas:

Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) – CRP acres in any part of the state will be considered, but the primary interest is within the eight Pheasant Opportunity Areas/Focus on Pheasants areas identified in the Berggren Plan for Pheasants (OutdoorNebraska.org/PheasantPlan). Landowners can get up to $10 per acre for CRP, depending upon location and habitat quality.

Prairie-chicken and grouse opportunity – Sites are sought in the southern Panhandle and along a line from North Platte to Niobrara. High-quality grassland habitats with mixed-bag upland game hunting opportunities are desired. Antelope and/or mule deer opportunity is a plus.

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

Northern bobwhite opportunity – Game and Parks seeks to target opportunities for quail hunting across the southern tier of Nebraska counties. All types of habitat that bobwhites use will be considered.

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

Game and Parks received a $3 million Voluntary Public Access – Habitat Improvement Program grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which will provide $1 million per year over the next three years for expansion of Open Fields and Waters.

Open Fields and Waters has added more than 112,000 acres since 2016. In 2019-2020, more than 750 landowners participated in the program statewide, providing public access on more than 346,000 land acres, 42 ponds and lakes, and more than 44 stream miles.

Game and Parks also will consider other hunting opportunities, as well. For information about enrolling in Open Fields and Waters, contact the nearest Game and Parks office. View a list of offices at OutdoorNebraska.gov/locations.

In addition to the grant, Game and Parks uses funds from habitat stamp and hunting license sales, Pittman-Robertson funds (Wildlife and Sportfish Restoration Act) and contributions from partners to fund the program and provide opportunities for hunting, trapping and fishing.

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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