2022 Berggren Plan Web

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Page 24 of 63

25 C. MANAGEABLE FACTORS AFFECTING HUNTER ACCESS TO LAND Access to quality hunting lands is critical to retaining and recruiting hunters� Since 97% of Nebraska is in private ownership, publicly-owned land, though important, is not sufficient to satisfy the demand for quality pheasant hunting across the state� Further, an increasingly urban populace has found it difficult to maintain the family contacts and friendships with rural landowners often necessary to gain permission to hunt private lands� Since the late 1990s, our response to this problem has been to offer landowners an annual, per-acre payment for allowing public, walk-in hunting access on their properties through the Commission's Open Fields and Waters Program� The OFW program has grown substantially over the past five years (Figure 3) and remains very popular among hunters and landowners� In 2020, the Commission was awarded a three-year, $3 million grant through the USDA's Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program (VPA-HIP) that should allow the program to expand in future years� The Commission also hopes to create new and expand on existing partnerships to facilitate additional public access opportunities on conservation partner lands throughout the state (where feasible), through financial incentives and cooperative agreements� Twenty-one percent of the hunters surveyed in 2012 (Lisa Pennisi and Namyun Kil, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, unpublished data) stated that they would not continue to hunt without public access lands, and 66% of those surveys were primarily pursuing upland game, so we believe OFW and similar programs are critical to maintaining or increasing current rates of pheasant hunter participation� Maintaining hunter participation is vital, because communities in which pheasant hunting continues to be a viable tradition attract part of the $848 million economic impact across Nebraska due to hunting� This tie to economic development provides a natural nexus for conservation interests to work with local communities within our focus and opportunity areas in providing more access to quality hunting� To meet changing needs of today's hunters, the Commission must continue to adapt its outreach efforts to better promote Nebraska's public access opportunities� The Public Access Atlas is a popular publication among Nebraska's hunters that consolidates and displays all state, federal, conservation partner, and OFW (private) lands open to public hunting� The Public Access Atlas also is available in several digital formats but the Commission must incorporate the use of new technologies and other forms of outreach (e�g�, social media) to reach a broader and more diverse audience�

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