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Berggren Plan Benefits Landowners and Pheasants

In 2016, the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission (NGPC) introduced its new five-year plan to promote and improve pheasant hunting throughout the state. Named the Berggren Plan in honor of Lynn Berggren, a former commissioner for the NGPC, it is an update of the previous Focus on Pheasants initiative. Berggren Plan efforts are concentrated in Focus on Pheasants Areas and Pheasant Opportunity Areas in eight regions of the state with high pheasant populations or with good potential to improve pheasant habitat conditions and to increase hunting access.

The Northeast Pheasant Opportunity Area (NEPOA) consists of Dakota, Dixon, Cedar, Knox, and Antelope counties, as well as the portion of Holt County east of Highway 11. The number one priority within the NEPOA is to increase the amount of grassland habitat. The NGPC and its partners, such as Pheasants Forever (PF) and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), have been working hard to increase enrollment in federal programs, such as the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), which provide valuable nesting/brood-rearing habitat and winter cover for pheasants.

Fritillary on Butterly Milkweed

Regal fritillary on butterfly milkweed in pheasant food plot. Photo by Jason Thiele, NGPC

The NGPC also offers a short-term set-aside program that pays landowners to establish plots of small grains and legumes that are left standing for two years to provide supplemental wildlife food and cover. Within the NEPOA, the NGPC offers incentives to landowners for habitat practices that benefit pheasants and other upland gamebirds. In certain situations, the NGPC can provide direct payments or cost-share for such habitat improvement practices as tree removal (to reduce perches for hawks and other predators and to prevent tree seedlings from invading grassland habitat), establishment of fire breaks for prescribed burning, interseeding of grasslands with forbs, and other practices that maintain the early-successional grasslands that are so important for pheasant populations.

In addition to private lands efforts, the NGPC manages suitable habitat for pheasants and other gamebirds at several state-owned Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) across the NEPOA. Many other species also benefit from the habitat work in the NEPOA, including multiple species of songbirds, Greater Prairie-Chickens, Northern Bobwhites, large and small mammals, and a variety of pollinators.

Providing public hunting access to quality pheasant habitat is another priority of the Berggren Plan. Additional financial incentives are available to landowners who allow public hunting access on their properties through the Open Fields and Waters (OFW) program. A landowner who signs an OFW contract receives an annual payment based on the suitability of the habitat for wildlife and the number of acres enrolled. Landowners enrolling CRP acres into OFW are also eligible for financial assistance in completing the mid-contract management of these acres that is required by the USDA.

Regardless of the program or programs used to accomplish the objectives, NGPC and PF biologists provide free technical assistance on establishing and managing high-quality wildlife habitat. Northeast Nebraska landowners interested in improving habitat on their land, allowing hunting access, or both through OFW should contact any of the following NGPC biologists in the Norfolk office:

Scott Wessel: 402-841-8817; scott.wessel@nebraska.gov
Cassidy Wessel: 402-360-1957; cassidy.wessel@nebraska.gov
Jason Thiele: 402-370-0010; jason.thiele@nebraska.gov