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Open Fields and Waters Program seeking new enrollments

LINCOLN, Neb. – 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 138,000 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 2020-21, and provided walk-in hunting and fishing opportunities across 372,000-plus land acres, more than 500 acres of ponds and lakes and more than 45 stream miles.

In 2020, Game and Parks received a three-year, Voluntary Public Access – Habitat Improvement Program grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. This grant provides $1 million per year and will allow for the continued expansion of this program over the next few years. In addition, 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 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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