Photos by Hunter Vandonsel
PALA contracts are a creative way for landowners to provide public access for hunting and/or fishing, in exchange for a payment
By Pheasants Forever Staff
In partnership with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP), the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and a devoted private landowner, Pheasants Forever is proud to announce the completion of a new 13,000-acre Public Land Access Agreement (PALA) adjacent to Fort Peck Lake. Public land users now have access to an additional 20 square miles of upland bird and big game habitat in northeastern Montana for the 2022-2023 season.
PALA contracts are a creative way for landowners to provide public access for hunting and/or fishing, in exchange for a payment — up to $15,000 per agreement — and other negotiated improvements that facilitate entry to inaccessible or under-accessible (no legal access point within two miles) state and federal properties.
In this case, access has been improved and created to BLM acres and the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge — the nation’s second largest national wildlife refuge in the lower 48 states, encompassing approximately 1.1 million acres.
Pheasants Forever recognizes Tori Ogolin, the organization’s most recent coordinating wildlife biologist in eastern Montana, for her efforts to facilitate this sprawling land access partnership with local ranchers. “I am so excited to see these acres open to the public. This project will provide endless opportunities for memories to be made in the outdoors,” said Ogolin.
“As a landowner, I appreciate an organization rewarding us for our contribution to not only local sportsmen and women, but wildlife as well. All in all, working with Montana FWP, the BLM and Pheasants Forever has been a very positive experience and I look forward to continuing our relationship,” said the participating landowner.
Potential access agreements are reviewed by the Private Land/Public Wildlife Advisory Committee for a recommendation to FWP whether to fund the agreement. Contract lengths are for a minimum of one year and maximum of 10 years with payments made annually. Landowners, in collaboration with Montana FWP, determine when, where and how the public may access public land in accordance with program guidelines, including the possibility of limiting travel to foot traffic only.
Montana’s PALA is one of many state access initiatives contributing to the overall goals of Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever’s Call of the Uplands® national campaign — a monumental initiative to save America’s uplands and cultivate the next generation of conservationists and hunters.
Access to the 13,000-acre parcel opened July 1. The property can be found in Garfield County south of the Dry Arm of Fort Peck Lake. More information and access rules can be found on FWP’s Hunt Planner under the “other access opportunities” layer.
This story originally appeared in the 2022 Fall Issue of the Pheasants Forever Journal. If you enjoyed it and would like to be the first to read more great upland content like this, become a member today!