Oklahoma landowners can do something to help keep America’s rich hunting and fishing heritage alive. They can become part of the Wildlife Department’s Oklahoma Land Access Program (OLAP) and get paid for doing so!
Entering its second year in September, OLAP is looking to build on its initial success by increasing the number of private land hunting and fishing leases in its inventory.
Wildlife biologist Jeff Tibbits, OLAP coordinator for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, said anytime is a great time for landowners to enroll.
“OLAP is ideal for landowners across Oklahoma, especially for absentee landowners and those who are already enrolled in conservation programs. If they already have land set aside for CRP, they might as well get another check for the land by enrolling it in OLAP,” Tibbits said.
The program uses federal grant money to increase public hunting and fishing opportunities in exchange for incentive payments to private landowners. Landowners who make parcels available through OLAP can choose which types of public access they want to allow in the categories of walk-in hunting, walk-in fishing, stream access and wildlife viewing. Compensation is variable up to $15 per acre based on the options selected, property location and term of lease. Additional payments have been pledged by Oklahoma Pheasants Forever/Quail Forever if farmers choose to leave standing crops or delay harvest.
“Just about anyone who owns land in Oklahoma or who leases land here can qualify and become part of OLAP,” Tibbits said.
Public access to fishing, hunting and wildlife watching areas has become an increasingly important issue facing outdoor enthusiasts in the past few decades. As public access decreases, so do the number of hunters, anglers and others who support fish and wildlife conservation. Programs such as OLAP are operating in more than 30 states in an effort to increase public access and keep our outdoor traditions in place.
“One of the best benefits OLAP enrollees can get is the satisfaction of knowing that they are doing something to preserve the American way of life, as far as hunting and fishing are concerned, so that these wonderful pastimes don’t vanish into history or become only things that can be enjoyed by a privileged few,” Tibbits said.
In addition to getting paid, OLAP enrollees get several benefits:
- Increased law enforcement patrol by state Game Wardens and Department representatives.
- Protection under state statutes granting enrollees immunity from normal non-negligent or intentional liability.
- Property signs and maps provided by OLAP, and physical marking of the OLAP area boundaries.
- The right to deny access to anyone with cause.
- The option to temporarily deny access when it adversely affects farming or ranching activities.
- The ability to cancel their OLAP contract at any time.
Tibbits said some of OLAP’s goals for 2018 are to increase dove hunting opportunities near metro areas, add stream fishing areas in eastern Oklahoma, and increase leases in western and southwestern Oklahoma.
OLAP is made possible by a Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program grant provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and administered by the Natural Resources Conservation Service.
Landowners can start the enrollment process online at www.wildlifedepartment.com/OLAP or contact Tibbits, (405) 535-7382, firstname.lastname@example.org; or OLAP technician Kasie Joyner, (405) 535-5681, email@example.com.