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Open Fields for Game Bird Hunters

What is Open Fields?

Montana has lost a significant amount of CRP in recent years, and more is scheduled to expire in the near future. Open Fields works with landowners to conserve CRP and associated quality habitats that provide important cover for Montana’s game birds.

Program Details

Landowners may enroll up to 320 CRP acres per application. More than one application may be submitted if the CRP tracts are located on separate, unique parcels of land that are at least ¼-mile apart.

Landowners receive a one-time lease payment of $5.00 per CRP acre (320-acre maximum per contract) for each year that remains in their CRP contract. For example, if 320 acres of CRP are enrolled for 10 years, the landowner receives an upfront payment of $16,000 in return for managing the CRP as outlined below:

  • CRP is eligible for managed or emergency harvesting or routine grazing activities once in 5 years.
  • All enrolled acres are open to free walk-in public access for game bird hunting with no further permission needed.

Open Fields contracts begin September 1 and end January 1 of the year the CRP expires.

Program Eligibility

Program eligibility map

To be considered eligible, the following crite­ria must be met:

  • All enrollments must be on private land that is legally accessible for walk-in game bird hunting.
  • A minimum of 2 years remaining on USDA CRP contracts.
  • CRP that is located within priority counties (see map) will receive additional evaluation points.  Landowners in non-priority counties are welcome to apply.

Lands not eligible include the following:

  • Lands enrolled in Block Management in 2016.
  • Lands immediately adjacent to a Block Management Area under the same ownership.
  • Lands part of an active Upland Game Bird En­hancement Program contract.
  • Stands of grass dominated by crested wheat­grass or smooth brome.
  • Because of differing management jurisdictions, lands within Indian Reservations do not qualify.

Review Process

Enrollment in Open Fields is voluntary and competitive. All applications undergo a standardized review and scoring process by FWP staff. Evaluations assess quality of CRP, availability of winter cover and food sources, and hunting access. Contracts are awarded based on evaluation scores and available funding. FWP will alert applicants of their status in May 2017.

Application Submission and Deadline

Download Application

Mail your application and your required maps to FWP:

  • Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks – Wildlife Division
  • P.O. Box 200701
  • Helena, MT 59620

Application Deadline

Applications must be postmarked no later than March 31, 2017.

Contact

  • Debbie Hohler

  • Upland Game Bird Enhancement Program Biologist
  • (406) 444-5674
  • E-mail

Open Fields is made possible through a grant provided by the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s Voluntary Public Access Habitat Incentive Program. This grant helps landowners keep some land in CRP and expands hunting access for game bird hunters.

Thank you for your interest in Open Fields for Game Bird Hunters!

Since 2012, nearly 165 private landowners have enrolled approximately 60,000 acres of CRP and other quality habitats!