North Dakota PLOTS Program in 2016

October 5, 2016 by  

Not long ago I had a conversation with caller on the current status of the North Dakota Game and Fish Department’s popular Private Land Open to Sportsmen program.

Rather than try to explain the long history of the PLOTS program, which in its current form got its start nearly 20 years ago, I directed him to a recent North Dakota Outdoors magazine article, with contains an interview with Kevin Kading, Game and Fish Department private land section leader.

PLOTS Program

(Photo courtesy NDGF)

It’s good information for anyone who hunts on PLOTS tracts, and for anyone who might be interested in enrolling land in the program. Some of those questions are highlighted below.

Q: In 2015 there were about 730,000 PLOTS acres. What is the acreage forecast for 2016?

A: It’s very similar to last year. We didn’t make any huge acreage gains this year, but we were able to maintain stable acreage in the program. This is the first time in several years this has happened. There is more interest in conservation programs right now, so hopefully we’ll see an increase in acres if the trend continues.

Q: Are landowners still interested in the PLOTS program?

A: Yes. There is always interest in the program, it just fluctuates depending on outside factors such as commodity prices, weather, farm bill programs and so on. Generally speaking, producers are always looking for conservation program options and PLOTS is something that has been around for almost 20 years so they are familiar with the program. We’re anticipating interest will remain and we’re hopeful that we’ll be able to increase acreage over the next several years.

Q: What kind of feedback are you getting from landowners and hunters on the PLOTS program?

A: One thing we’ve learned over the years is we need to have a flexible and reasonable program that works for producers. Without that, we simply wouldn’t have a program. Overall, we get good feedback from producers about the program, which is evident by some producers who have remained in the program since its inception. Hunters continually provide positive feedback about PLOTS.

Of course, we get a few negative comments, but there is usually a logical explanation for what the hunter is concerned about. With a program of this size, there is bound to be a few hiccups each year. If there is one comment we hear from the public and in many surveys, it is that hunters would like to see more acres in the program.

Q: What kind of shape is the PLOTS program in today?

A: Funding for PLOTS is in good shape and interest is solid. Our biggest challenge is trying to keep high quality habitat in the program. There are a lot of pressures on the habitat resource in parts of the state, which makes it difficult to maintain or grow the program to meet the expectations of the hunting public.

We’ve dedicated a lot of time and energy to ensuring we have a wide menu of options available under PLOTS, from working lands to idled habitat. There is tremendous interest in working lands PLOTS, and we could enroll a lot of acres into the program this way, but it’s not always the highest quality habitat so we need to balance that interest.

The Department’s goal is still to get back to 1 million PLOTS acres, but from what we know and what our hunters are telling us, they don’t want 1 million acres of marginal PLOTS. They want quality habitat and they want it in the right locations.


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