LINCOLN, Neb. — Private landowners have until June 14 to enroll their land in the Open Fields and Waters (OFW) Program. Through OFW, landowners can earn additional income for allowing walk-in hunting, trapping and/or fishing access on their properties.
According to John Laux, the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission’s upland habitat and access manager, OFW is a “win-win” for both private landowners and hunters. “Participating landowners benefit from the extra income and our hunters and anglers [who help fund the program] have more places to go,” said Laux. With over 97 percent of Nebraska’s land-base in private ownership, obtaining access to private lands continues to be one of the biggest challenges facing today’s hunters and anglers.
Increasing public hunting opportunities is a primary objective outlined in the Berggren Plan, Game and Park’s five-year initiative aimed at improving the pheasant hunting experience in Nebraska. “Last year, we added nearly 60,000 acres and hope to continue to expand the program in 2019,” said Laux. Over 700 landowners participated in OFW in 2018, opening over 316,000 land acres, 600 acres of ponds/lakes, and 42 miles of streams to public access across the state.
In addition to receiving annual, per-acre payments, participating landowners are also afforded protection from liability under the Nebraska Recreation Liability Act. Payment rates vary from 50 cents to $15 per acre, depending on habitat type and property location. Game and Parks biologists post boundary signs and enrolled properties are published annually in the Nebraska Public Access Atlas, which is available at OutdoorNebraska.org/PublicAccessAtlas/.
Private landowners interested in enrolling in OFW should contact their nearest Game and Parks district office: Lincoln (402-471-5561), Norfolk (402-370-3374), Alliance (308-763-2940) or North Platte (308-535-8025).