The Importance of the North Dakota PLOTS Land

February 15, 2009 by  

By Doug Leier

A couple pheasants taken on PLOTS land.

A couple pheasants taken on PLOTS land.

North Dakota does not have much public land, compared to our neighbors to the east and west. While Minnesota is about 30 percent public ownership and Montana about 40 percent public, more than 90 percent of North Dakota is privately owned.

So it makes sense that much of our resident wildlife, such as pheasants, grouse and deer, depend on suitable habitat found on private land, and hunters depend on relationships with private landowners for outdoor recreation.

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department’s mission of “protecting, conserving and enhancing fish and wildlife populations and their habitats,” cannot be achieved without directly working with private landowners.

The familiar PLOTS sign

The familiar PLOTS sign

Over the past couple of decades, a Private Land Initiative has evolved within the game and fish department. Within the past several years this project has greatly expanded. Many readers are likely familiar with the triangular yellow signs in the countryside that indicate a Private Land Open to Sportsmen tract. These PLOTS acres are the backbone of the department’s effort to increase habitat, and hunting access, on private land.

The challenge is to provide new and dynamic programs into the future. A new option called the Working Lands Program is now part of the mix and generating considerable interest around the state.

Working Lands were designed to create a niche for landowners who maintain decent wildlife habitat on their land already, but do not want to take large tracts out of production to qualify for one of the other programs. It embraces pasture, crop fields and odd acres, and enrollment is based on points assessed to land use such as wetland and woodland acres, no-till practices and rotational grazing. Location of land in relation to other public hunting opportunities is also important.

Interested landowners can improve chances for eligibility and compensation by implementing other conservation practices. Keep in mind, working lands and all game and fish private land programs are voluntary, and flexible enough to work with most individual landowner needs.

While all private land enrolled in a game and fish program is designated with a yellow sign, the land behind the sign could be part of several distinct options for landowners. These options include:

CRP cost-share: Incentives on land enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program are up to 50 percent cost-share on cost of seed for establishing cover. Approximately 177,000 acres are open to walk-in hunting access through this program. Additionally an option of agreeing not to graze or hay the tract before the end of the contract may add upto $2 acre per year.

Habitat Plots: These acres include 3-6 year rental or 20-year long-term contracts on cover that provides habitat. Payments are based on soil rental rates. In 2003 about 142,000 acres were enrolled.

Coverlocks for Conservation: An all- encompassing long-term program that includes grass and trees in priority watersheds across the state. This program included 14,500 acres last year.

Native Forest Conservation: Provides payment for maintaining and protecting native woodland habitat on private land. Priority areas include the Pembina Hills and Turtle Mountains. In 2003, 13,500 acres were enrolled. Depending upon landowner objectives, short and long term alternatives are available.

Beginning Farmer: Works with the North Dakota Natural Resources Trust to offer incentives to new farmers who incorporate select conservation measures into their operations.

Wetlands Reserve Program: This U.S. Department of Agriculture program pays landowners for long-term or permanent easements for restoring wetlands. Payments can range up to 90 percent of the appraised land value for 30-year easements; accounted for 2,800 acres in 2003.

Tree Planting Cost-share: Cost share fund incentive for establishing wildlife tree plantings on private land; 2,200 acres in 2003.

Food Plots: Provides annual payments for planting of agricultural crops left for wildlife food during winter; 1,900 acres in 2003.

The PLOTS program is proving to be an effective land restoration program

The PLOTS program is proving to be an effective land restoration program

Add it all up and as of Dec. 31, 2003, game and fish had partially funded 425,000 acres of habitat through PLI incentives. All of this land is also open to walking public access for hunting. While PLI programs in North Dakota will never replace the need for hunters to develop relationships with private landowners, landowner/hunter relations, they do provide options that did not exist 10 years ago – for both landowners and hunters.

As producers begin deliberating their plans for 2004, now is a good time to take a first or second look at how game and fish programs might fit into an operation. These projects continue to evolve, to the benefit of landowners, hunters and wildlife as well.


One Comment on "The Importance of the North Dakota PLOTS Land"

  1. rick allen on Sun, 17th Oct 2010 4:41 pm 

    would like to konw of the Plots available, in the Western part of North Dakota, that you can hunt Muledeer bucks an does? thank you.

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