Open Fields and Waters Program
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How the Program Works
Two rate zones have been created:
The Commission will pay more and expand staff emphasis to attempt to enroll sites closer to population centers and the Platte River.
1) Population/Platte Rate
2) Standard Rate
The program makes the following assumptions:
1) Not all access is of equal quality and value.
2) Better habitat will provide for more
diverse and higher quality hunting experiences.
This is reflected by providing higher payment rates to landowners who enroll higher quality wildlife habitat into the program where more people live.
Habitat That May Be Enrolled
Woodland habitats are expected to provide quality opportunities for harvest of increasing deer and turkey populations. The program recognizes that many landowners might not enroll their land if they have to give up the nine-day firearm deer hunting season. Landowners still can enroll acres for a reduced payment if they restrict access during the firearm deer hunting season. This type of arrangement still will provide important opportunities for archery and muzzleloader deer hunting, as well as turkey and small game hunting. The program also provides for the enrollment of lakes, ponds, rivers, and streams to create expanded opportunities for anglers.
Land Requirements for Enrollment?
A base of 10 acres of mature deciduous woodland, 10 acres of huntable wetland, or 40 acres of coniferous woodland is required.
How Does This Program Differ from CRP-MAP?
The Open Fields and Waters Program will expand habitat types beyond those enrolled in the current Conservation Reserve Program-Management Access Program (CRP-MAP). It also will expand opportunities for different kinds of hunting and fishing on enrolled lands and the quality of those opportunities. For hunting, this program is focused on sites that must have a core of high-quality woodland or quality wetland hunting habitat, which will complement the grassland/upland game focus of existing CRP-MAP. Land cannot be enrolled in both CRP-MAP and the Open Fields and Waters programs at the same time.
Landowners who enroll in Open Fields and Waters Program are afforded protection from liability through the Nebraska Recreation Liability Act. Nebraska Recreation Liability Act (Nebraska Statutes 37-1001 to 378-1008) states that landowners or tenants do not assume responsibility or incur liability for injury to any persons who enter land opened to public hunting under agreement with the state.
Other Points to Consider
The length of the contracts for the first year will be either for one or two years. New contracts in 2010 will be for one year.
Any contract that exceeds $5,000 must be approved by the Commission's Administration Division.
The contract period will run from September 1 through August 31 annually.
The enrolled land is open for hunting and/or fishing during all legal hunting seasons. Activities are limited to those that are allowed under the contract and, unless specified in the contract, are the same as those allowed or prohibited on wildlife management areas.
The number of hunters or anglers accessing the enrolled land will not be limited.
Commission staff will determine the payment rate to be applied to enrolled land on a case-by-case basis.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Why is the grass (CRP) disked at my favorite OFW site?
A: The landowner is either converting grassland to crop land, the CRP contract has expired, or he is upgrading habitat, possibly as part of the OFW program.
Q: Does NGPC pay for disked ground or other removed habitat?
A: NGPC makes a payment to the landowner based on the available habitat and condition. Sites are reviewed annually and if changes have occurred then payments are adjusted accordingly.
Q: Why does NGPC spend tax dollars on the OFW program?
A: NGPC doesn't spend any tax dollars on this program. This is a common misunderstanding of how many NGPC programs are funded. NGPC uses hunter user-fees, grant dollars from Nebraska Environmental Trust, partners (i.e. PF Inc.), and Federal sources when applicable to fund the OFW Program.
Q: What does NGPC do to improve wildlife habitat on OFW lands?
A: NGPC provides specific incentives to landowners, based on the site and the location within the state to improve habitat on OFW lands. These incentives improve habitat, typically secure access for a longer period of time, and can be critical to some landowner's decision to stay enrolled in the USDA CRP.
Q: Why does NGPC allow landowners to destroy habitat on OFW lands?
A: Private property rights are protected in the United States and a valued part of our social system. Landowners determine land uses. NGPC and the OFW Program must remain flexible to the landowner's land management decisions if we are going to have any public access programs.