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Sharp-tailed grouse

Through the Upland Game Bird Enhancement Program landowners can receive payment to protect game bird habitat.

LARRY MAYER, Gazette Staff

It's time for landowners to enroll in the state-sponsored "Open Fields for Game Bird Hunters."

The voluntary program, offered through Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks' Upland Game Bird Enhancement Program, is available to private landowners who have a minimum of two years left on their federal Conservation Reserve Program contract or are enrolling new lands into CRP. Over 81,000 acres have been enrolled in Open Fields since 2012.

Participating landowners receive $5 per acre each year for the land that is enrolled in CRP. Landowners may enroll up to 320 acres of CRP for a maximum payment of $24,000. Landowners can submit more than one application if the CRP is located on a separate, unique parcel of land.

Producers who enroll cropland into new CRP contracts will also be eligible to receive a bonus payment of up to $1,600 to help cover seed costs for wildlife friendly seed mixes.

All counties located within FWP’s administrative regions 3 through 7 are eligible to apply.

Open Fields leases may be eligible for managed or emergency harvesting or routine grazing activities but may only occur once in five years.

All enrollments must be on private lands that are legally accessible by public right of ways and allow free walk-in game bird hunting without further permission.

Because this program is intended to expand areas open to the public for bird hunting, lands that are already enrolled in FWP's Block Management Program or the Upland Game Bird Enhancement Program do not qualify.

Applications for enrollment in Open Fields for Game Bird Hunters will be scored by FWP. Landowners may offer additional acreage to help square up access boundaries and increase evaluation scores. Applications must be submitted by May 1. For more information and an application, visit FWP online at; and then click "Open Fields Enrollment."

Funding for Open Fields has been made possible through a Volunteer Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program grant awarded by the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

For details, contact Debbie Hohler at 406-444-5674, or by e-mail:



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