The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission amended its wildlife regulations to create the Free-earned Landowner Elk Permit Program at its Oct. 22 meeting in North Platte.
In the program, a person who owns or leases at least 80 acres of farm- or ranchland for agricultural purposes qualifies for an either-sex elk permit following the verification of 10 general antlerless elk harvests; immediate family members are eligible for the permit.
The free-earned landowner elk permit was created during the 2021 Legislative Session. The goal is to increase hunting access opportunities and antlerless elk harvest, and to benefit landowners who regularly have elk on their property but can’t always draw a landowner permit.
Immediate family includes spouse, child, stepchild, spouse of child or stepchild, sibling sharing ownership or spouse of sibling.
The free-earned permit does not affect eligibility for general or landowner permits.
The Commission also approved an elk management plan, which describes the agency’s goal of managing elk at acceptable population levels while providing Nebraskans with quality hunting and viewing opportunities.
Park regulations also were amended to increase the nonresident vehicle park entry permit fee to two times the fee for a resident vehicle park entry permit. That raises the annual fee from $45 to $60 and the one-day pass from $8 to $12. Commissioners also updated technical language regarding the resident disabled veteran park permit.
The following amendments to sport fishing orders regarding bag limits, possession limits, length limits and open areas also were approved:
• Black bass – The area where there is no minimum length limit on smallmouth bass is expanded to: the NPPD Canal starting at the Sutherland Reservoir outlet to the confluence with the South Platte River in Lincoln County, including Lake Maloney. Bufflehead Wildlife Management Area and David City Ponds are added to the list of waters where the minimum length limit on largemouth bass is 21 inches.
• Striped bass, white bass and striped bass hybrid – Wagon Train Reservoir is removed from the list of waters where the exception for bag limit is three fish in the daily bag.
• Channel catfish – Box Butte Reservoir is added to the list of waters where the exception for bag limit states it shall not include more than one fish 30 inches or greater in length.
• Archery fishing – Technical language is updated on Missouri River seasons and closed areas.
• Lake McConaughy – It is illegal to possess wipers on Lonergan Creek from its junction at the McConaughy lakeshore upstream to, and including, the culvert under Highway 92.
In other business, the Commission approved:
• hunting in some state parks and state historical parks;
• a permanent 100-foot-wide right-of-way easement to Cherry County for maintenance of a road at Cottonwood-Steverson Wildlife Management Area; and
• the meeting schedule for 2022: Jan. 27-28, Lincoln; March 22-23, Nebraska City; April 27-28, Niobrara State Park; June 16-17, Lexington; Aug. 30-31, Fort Robinson SP; Oct. 20-21, Broken Bow.
The Commission also voted formally to approve the appointment of Tim McCoy as director of Game and Parks effective Nov. 2.
Staff gave updates on elk hunting season, west-central Nebraska outreach efforts, results of the Education Workgroup Community Survey, and a report on efforts to raise, release and reestablish native mussel species in Nebraska’s water bodies.
In addition, Rick Windham of North Platte was recognized as a prominent partner for decades of providing outdoor education and outreach and for volunteering for many Game and Parks programs.
Three staff members were recognized for their work. Bryan Sweet received an employee enterprise award for his innovative work with the agency’s freshwater mussel program. Mike Remund and Brad Seitz were presented with special recognition for their efforts in managing upland birds and habitat.
Tim Horst from Ducks Unlimited expressed gratitude and thanks to outgoing Game and Parks Director Jim Douglas for the longstanding partnerships and his dedication to preserving wetlands during his career. Douglas, who is retiring after 47 years of service to the agency, also was recognized by the commissioners with a resolution.