West Fargo

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department's Private Land Open to Sportsmen (PLOTS) guide was first published in its current magazine format, instead of a fold-out map, in 2000.

The popular program at that time was just a few years old and included about 120,000 acres enrolled by private landowners to allow for public walking hunting access.

From that point, the number of acres in the program grew rapidly, peaking at more than a million acres about a decade ago.

In the recent August-September issue of North Dakota OUTDOORS magazine, Game and Fish private land section leader Kevin Kading provided a status update on the PLOTS program. Following are excerpts from some of the questions and answers from the magazine.

Q: The acreage in the PLOTS program has remained somewhat stable for the last few years. Where does the program stand this year?

A: Game and Fish Department private land biologists increased acreage in the program by 25,000 acres. The program will have approximately 762,000 acres available for the 2018 fall hunting season. The reason for the increased acres was an effort to work with producers who had Conservation Reserve Program contracts set to expire. With very few options to get back into CRP, many producers were looking for other alternatives.

We also worked with landowners to plant more new habitat, including about 1,600 acres of new grass in 2018. The Department also made an effort to utilize funds generated from unsuccessful deer lottery applicants who chose to donate their fees to the PLOTS program. We were able to enroll some very nice tracts of land, and plant some new acres of habitat using these funds, putting those dollars to work developing deer habitat. These efforts still can't replace the amount of habitat that was available when CRP was at its peak, but it's a start.

Q: While we understand that the Department's PLOTS is landowner driven, what role do hunters play in making sure this program remains on the landscape?

A: Hunters play a role by making sure they treat the PLOTS tracts they hunt with respect. It goes without saying that a "few bad apples" can ruin a good PLOTS tract. Landowners are generously enrolling their land into this voluntary program. We receive calls every year about litter, off-trail travel, dumping of carcasses and so on from owners of PLOTS lands ... Another way hunters can help ensure the program remains on the landscape is to buy a hunting license, even if they don't plan to hunt a particular year or if they don't plan to hunt on PLOTS. PLOTS is funded from the sales of hunting licenses and interest accrued from the Department's operating fund. No state tax dollars go into the program. Funds generated from the sales of hunting licenses are leveraged with federal Pittman-Robertson funds, which come from excise taxes from the sale of sporting arms and ammunition.

The entire interview is available online at the Game and Fish website at gf.nd.gov.