A Monthly Publication of the Nebraska Environmental Trust

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Pete Ricketts, Governor

Board of Trustees

District I
District II
District III

Agency Directors

Trust Staff

August 2015

In This Issue:

  1. Executive Director Corner
  2. Grants Deadline Is Coming Up!
  3. A Call for Docents for the Ferguson House
  4. Why We Love Prairie - Justin Evertson, Green Infrastructure Coordinator
  5. Upcoming Events


Executive Director Corner

It is that time of the year for State Fair, festivals and outdoor expos.  The Trust will be present at the State Fair in Grand Island, World O’ Water in Omaha, the Ponca Outdoor Expo at Ponca State Park, and Nature Palooza at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.  Hopefully you can stop by one of these events and visit with us. 

With the grant deadline of September 8, 2015, coming up quickly, we have been busy talking and meeting with potential grant applicants.  It is always exciting to hear about all of the great projects being proposed across Nebraska.  We never know how many applications we will receive or how much money will be requested, but we will know in a couple of weeks.

Schools and colleges are back in session and a lot of Nebraskans are holding their breath to see what kind of football team Coach Riley will field or if Coach Cook’s volleyball team is going to be as good as predicted.  Time will tell. 

I hope to see you out there at one of the fall events.

Mark Brohman
Executive Director  


Grants Deadline Is Coming Up!

The Trust office has been busy with phone calls and meetings with lots of inquiries on the upcoming deadline and how proposals may be submitted. For the benefit of those who did not attend our Categories Roundtable recently, our funding categories have remained status quo and no changes have been adopted as the Board decided that our Categories were broad enough to cover a wide variety of proposals as long as they met the eligibility criteria.

The Trust Board also decided to award 20 geographical points for projects in District 6 (North Central Nebraska).

For those of you who are submitting grants this cycle, a couple things to remember:

Before submitting a proposal, applicants are encouraged to contact the Trust and discuss their concept with staff for assistance in meeting application requirements. Our deadline for the submission of General and Recognition Grants is Tuesday, September 8, 2015.

There are two options for submission of a completed application:

Electronic submission - The Trust will accept submission of an application using our electronic application form. The electronic submission must be received by the Trust by midnight CDT on the application deadline date and a hard copy of the application must be received by the Trust no later than 5.00 p.m. CDT on the Friday following the deadline date.

The electronic submission must be complete and include all information required in a hard copy submission except that which is not physically possible to include e.g., signed letters. Completed applications can be e-mailed to the Grants Administrator. The electronic form is available for download on the Trust's website. Click on link here.

Hard-copy submission - The Trust will also accept traditional submissions of applications. One copy of the completed application must be postmarked on or before the application deadline date, September 8, 2015. Hard copy submissions should be mailed to: The Nebraska Environmental Trust, P.O. Box 94913, Lincoln, NE 68509-4913.

Application forms, instructions, and a current calendar are available on the Trust website.


A Call for Docents for the Ferguson House

The Trust is currently looking for volunteer docents to assist with event rentals at the Ferguson House. The 103 year-old Renaissance Revival home is a state owned building that is open for event rentals during the year, ranging from bridal and baby showers to weddings, anniversaries, receptions, meetings and birthdays at reasonable cost to the public.

If you would like to volunteer your time to help out with these events, call Allison La Duke at 402-471-5417 Mondays through Fridays (8:00am – 5:00pm) or e-mail allison.laduke@nebraska.gov to inquire about volunteer opportunities and fill out an application form. Background checks are essential for prospective volunteers and successful volunteers will be entitled to one free rental after a year of service.

The Ferguson House is located at 700 S 16th Street in downtown Lincoln.

Considered to be one of the finest examples of Second Renaissance Revival architecture in the area, the Ferguson House was built between 1909 and 1911 by William Henry and Myrtle Ferguson. Mr. Ferguson helped introduce winter wheat and new alfalfa varieties to Nebraska and was co-owner of Yankee Hill Brick and Capital Beach Amusement Park, President of Beatrice Foods and owner of Woodlawn Dairy. The state of Nebraska acquired the property from the Ferguson family in 1961 and took possession in 1972. The property is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The house is a well-known landmark in Lincoln located across from the Nebraska State Capitol. The staff of the Nebraska Environmental Trust currently occupies the second floor of the Ferguson House. The first floor living and dining rooms are available to rent for meeting and events during the course of the year.

You may visit http://environmentaltrust.org/about/ferguson.html for more information on the Ferguson House.

ferguson house

The Ferguson House on 700 South 16th St, Lincoln NE


Why We Love Prairie - Justin Evertson, Green Infrastructure Coordinator, Nebraska Statewide Arboretum (NSA)

“The joy of prairie lies in its subtlety. It is so easy—too easy—to be swept away by mountain and ocean vistas. A prairie, on the other hand, requests the favor of your closer attention. It does not divulge itself to mere passersby.” Suzanne Winckler

We at Nebraska Statewide Arboretum (NSA) believe emphatically that more native prairie plants should be used in our planted landscapes, especially within our communities. Two factors are prominent in this notion. First is the realization that most of the prairie has been plowed under. Nebraska’s renowned prairie ecologist J.E. Weaver summed it up well: “Civilized man is destroying a masterpiece of nature without recording for posterity that which he has destroyed.”

Weaver had seen that in just a few decades after settlement, we had plowed up the best of the prairie. Across the Great Plains it’s estimated that over 95 percent of the tallgrass prairie and 70 percent of the mixed grass prairie has been lost (U.S. Geologic Survey data 2014). And although we’re fortunate that significant amounts of mixed and shortgrass prairie still exist in central and western Nebraska, much of this has been degraded from mismanagement or has become highly fragmented. The impact to native flora and fauna due to this loss has been significant, with the number of declining species rising every year. In addition, the loss of prairie has led to other problems—significant soil erosion, greater stormwater runoff, streambank erosion and polluted streams. The deeply-rooted prairie is no longer there to hold the soil and filter the pollutants from our farm fields and communities.

Secondly, although we may live in prairie country, our community landscapes reflect very little of our natural heritage. Our community green spaces have become predictable and homogenous, containing a relatively narrow palette of plants, most of which are from foreign lands and which offer few environmental benefits. In fact, most of the community landscape is covered with turfgrass which does almost nothing to aid biodiversity or sustain ecological health. Our landscapes simply do not reflect the many benefits of biodiversity and of native plants that support up to thirty times more species in the food web than non-natives (Douglas Tallamy, Bringing Nature Home). Limiting biodiversity also makes our community landscapes less resilient to climate change, weather impacts and disease threats.

Thus we conclude that if the green spaces of our communities were properly planted and managed, they could become critical refuges for important native plants and wildlife including a wide variety of important pollinators. Just think about it—every town has unused park spaces, school properties, fairgrounds, cemeteries, industrial areas and transportation corridors that are managed primarily by mowing the lawn or whatever grows there, and often by spraying away anything but turfgrass. And of course nearly every commercial or residential property has green space that would be healthier planted to something. These green spaces may as well include more native plants. At least some of the bigger spaces could be planted and managed as richly diverse prairie plots. And although true prairie is harder to do on small residential or commercial yards, many native prairie plants lend themselves well for ornamental use in landscape plantings.

To help push this vision along, the NSA is partnering with the UNL Department of Entomology and the Nebraska Environmental Trust on an initiative called “Community as Habitat.” The goal of the three-year initiative is to improve the biodiversity and ecological health of targeted community landscapes via greater use of native plants that in turn attract a much wider variety of important wildlife, especially pollinators and other critical insects. In short we will work to convince Nebraskans that landscape conservation and environmental stewardship should begin in our own yards and neighborhoods.
        Specifically, grant funds will be used to plan and implement up to 40 publicly accessible prairie-inspired landscape projects in partner communities across the state. Projects will demonstrate environmental benefits of biodiversity, native plants, waterwise practices and soil building, with a special emphasis on pollinator-friendly and Nebraska appropriate plantings. Plants will be carefully selected and will emphasize native species especially those that are critically important to pollinators. The Community as Habitat Initiative will advance key environmental priorities of the Nebraska Environmental Trust:

- Habitat: The initiative will transform sterile landscapes into richly diverse, pollinator-friendly and prairie inspired habitat. The initiative will benefit a wide variety of wildlife including beneficial insects, birds, bats and amphibians.

- Surface and Groundwater: The initiative will utilize drought-tolerant native plants that greatly reduce the overall need for supplemental irrigation.  In addition, the initiative will foster landscape methods that reduce pesticide and fertilizer use and reduce and filter stormwater runoff, thus reducing non-point source pollutants reaching local waterways.
- Soil Management: Landscape practices will improve the organic content, microbial life, infiltration, tilth and overall viability of urban soils.

- Waste Management: Landscape projects will utilize locally recycled wood waste as mulch and will recycle plant residues on site, thus diverting them from the waste stream.

The landscape of any community could become an important refuge for locally native plants. Unfortunately, native-inspired landscapes are often seen as wild or weedy by many people who have come to expect the neat and tidy of modern landscapes. Reliable, ever-blooming flowers, shortly cropped lawns and few if any insects are what many people have come to expect of our green spaces. Community as Habitat will aim to shift this mindset so that the definition of landscape beauty includes not just color, texture, shape and form, but also a “sense of place” that reflects biodiversity and ecological soundness. The time has come for a new paradigm in the way we landscape our communities—one that is less about exerting our will on Mother Nature and more about our embrace of biodiversity.


Some of the native prairie flowers planted around the Ferguson House by the Nebraska Statewide Arboretum


Upcoming Events

- August 28 - September 7, 2015 - Nebraska State Fair, Grand Island

- September 12, 2015 - World O' Water Festival, Omaha

- September 19-20, 2015 - Ponca Outdoor Expo, Ponca State Park

- September 29, 2015 - Nature Palooza, School of Natural Resources, University of Nebraska-Lincoln


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