A Monthly Publication of the Nebraska Environmental Trust
Pete Ricketts, Governor
Board of Trustees
In This Issue:
Executive Director Corner
We held our category roundtable meetings on June 5, 11 and 15, and now we’ll work on getting the notes out to those that attended and anyone else that asks for a copy. The information will be discussed at our July 13th board meeting in Nebraska City and the board will decide if they wish to hold a public meeting to make changes in the categories or the category descriptions. Stay tuned.
I recently attended the 2015 Nebraska Grazing Lands Coalition Summer Grazing Tour in Webster County. Board member, Rod Christen from Steinauer, also participated in the tour. You can read more about the tour below.
The weather continues to be full of surprises, not only in Nebraska, but across the country and even the world, from drought in California to floods in Texas. Even here in Nebraska we saw record late snows in the northwest (22 inches), recent floods and high water in the Scottsbluff area, the wettest May every recorded in Lincoln (broke the old record established in 1903) and everything from hail to tornadoes in various locations. The large flows in the South Platte combined with above normal flows in the North Platte River set up bank to bank flows in both and where they joined at North Platte was impressive to see recently. Full channels and out-of-bank flows around Grand Island are still present. It makes you wonder if the record setting precipitation will continue past mid-June or if things are about to change and begin to dry up. I guess we will have to wait and see.
Enjoy the summer.
Update From Funding Categories Roundtable Meetings
The Nebraska Environmental Trust organized its 2015 Categories Roundtable Meetings. Grantees, partners and interested members of the public attended the meeting to let their voices be heard in suggesting new categories of funding for the Trust and/or revising the existing ones.
The three meetings in North Platte, Omaha and Lincoln were well attended by a diverse group that brought a lot of ideas to the table to be considered by the Trust Board. The Trust is currently compiling all submissions to be presented to the Board at the 3rd Quarter July Board meeting. The Board will consider all suggestions.
Participants at the 2015 Lincoln Roundtable
2015 Nebraska Grazing Lands Coalition Summer Grazing Tour
The 2015 Grazing Tour sponsored by the Nebraska Cattlemen, the University of Nebraska Extension and the Nebraska Environmental Trust was held in Webster County on June 16, 2015. A group of over one hundred cattle producers and interested parties took part in the tour. The first stop on the tour was at Jim and Betty Choquette’s ranch near Upland where Jim described how they have effectively grazed native range and used cover crops. He was very proud of how he had rehabilitated some of his range over the years. He showed off some of his hand-built portable tanks and water lines.
The group visited Green Cover Seed’s demonstration plots of cool and warm season cover crops and learned of the various species' properties including value as a food source, ability to fix nitrogen, the time to plant them as well as the method of planting them. The site was just on the outskirts of Bladen. Various species were dug up to allow everyone to see the root structure of the plants, to give everyone an idea of what was below the surface, as well as above ground.
During lunch there were two Nebraska cover crop grazers (Lanny Greenhalgh of Guide Rock and Wayne Rasmussen of Plainview) that gave information about their operations. The group then traveled to the 468-acre Jensen Waterfowl Production Area to learn how the US Fish and Wildlife Service uses prescribed fire, grazing, mechanical tree clearing, haying and chemicals to manage the wetlands and surrounding uplands and hear from the local producer that runs cattle on the property.
The last stop of the day was at the Willa Cather Memorial Prairie just south of Red Cloud before you cross into Kansas. The 612 acre virgin prairie was originally purchased by the Nature Conservancy, but is now operated by the Willa Cather Foundation. Members of the Willa Cather Prairie Committee were present to tell about the current management practices that include grazing, fire and mechanical clearing of trees.
The Crane Trust's Trail and Bison Project - Brice Krohn, Senior Director, The Crane Trust
The Crane Trust Bison herd grazing along Platte River
How? By creating a highly visible, world-class platform and resource for outdoor learning and eco-tourism on the Platte. Nature enthusiasts, eco-tourists, educators and students of all ages will find a welcome home to experience this extraordinary ecosystem up close and in person as revealed by the Platte River Discovery Trail & Bison Project.
At the heart of the project is an open system of nature trails, trailside exhibits and interpretation displays designed to capture the public’s imagination through vivid presentations, engaging exhibits and enriching interaction. The trail system will be layered in content and in length to permit visitors and educators/students to manage their experience based on their goals, interests, abilities and time. The experience can be self-paced or self-directed, utilized through trailside exhibits, or it can be guided by outside instruction and curriculum for a more structured experience.
A Welcome Home for Friends and Nature
Core Elements of Exploration and Discovery
Outline of Key Project Areas and Features
Nature and Visitor Building
The Crane Trust Nature & Visitor Center was further developed to provide a more effective “runway” for the overall trail experience. Inside the Nature and Visitor Center, the Crane Trust added a number of important informational assets to depict the major ecological processes, habitats and conservation principles that visitors encounter along the trail. These new assets include two large touch-screen displays, larger-than-life wall murals depicting the areas ecology, and an indoor/outdoor sound system to greet visitors with pre-recorded bird and wildlife sounds as they approach and depart the center.
Importantly, many of these features were made possible with generous support from a number of project donors, including NET, Renze Display, Mangelsen Images of Nature, and other private donors.
Prairie Trail to the River
1) Pollinator Garden
2) Bison Exhibits
The Crane Trust’s new herd of 52 pure bison will be grazing throughout the Shoemaker Island Nature Center pasture at different times of the year and will be able to be seen by visitors using the expanded trail system, which now boasts more than 8.5 miles of trails along and throughout the river, adjacent prairie, sloughs and wet meadows. With a generous donation, our fences are now located more than 90 feet inward from our property boundaries, giving a beautiful view of the prairie system, while having more opportunity to roam while the bison are actively managing the prairie.
A six-foot tall wooden fence is currently being added along the west side of trail adjacent to the north bison enclosure, screening the adjacent feedlot and allowing more area to be used for future outreach. The fence is designed with offsets every few sections to provide visual relief and interest. Groupings of native and adaptive shrubs are being planted and labeled to further soften the structure’s appearance and enhance the outdoor experience. A section of the fence is going to be used to recognize donors and other contributors who helped make the trail possible.
3) River Observation Tower
4) North Bridge Overlook
Prairie Loop Trails
The first stage of the American bison herd exhibit was constructed and stocked in early June 2012 with four young bison. An Omaha-based firm was selected in the summer 2012 to assist in the drafting of a Master Plan to guide the project’s development. The draft plan was completed in late February 2013. The project is being developed incrementally over a multi-year period as funding becomes available for the different elements.
The Crane Trust is working with several different professionals at this time to complete ongoing projects with an anticipated completion date of June 30th, 2015. Please visit our website or call the Nature and Visitor Center building for more information.
Trout in The Classroom - Victoria Mullins, Aquatics Educator
Trout in the Classroom (TIC) is a conservation-oriented environmental education program for elementary through high school students. Throughout the school year, students raise rainbow trout from eggs to fry and then release them in the canyon ponds of Aksarben Aquarium in Gretna, NE. The act of raising, monitoring, and caring for young trout fosters a conservation ethic and promotes an understanding of their shared water resources. From the time that the eggs hatch, the students are involved in every step of the trout raising process. Students are responsible for cleaning and changing tank water, testing water quality, and feeding the fish.
Photo credits: “NEBRASKAland Magazine/Nebraska Game and Parks Commission”.
This past season, the TIC program had twenty-four classrooms rearing trout across the state from Lincoln to Crawford, with many schools in between. The list of lessons to be learned from raising trout in a classroom is endless. Aside from the obvious scientific ties to cell division, life cycles and aquatic ecosystems, the Trout in the Classroom program provides a learning platform for disciplines across the board. Many classrooms journal about the trout development, draw the various life stages, calculate mortality rates and estimate hatching dates based on water temperature. The rainbow trout have quickly proven themselves as invaluable learning tools for teachers.
During the 2014/2015 school year, approximately 950 students had hands-on learning experiences with trout both in and out of their classroom. This spring, students and teachers attended a Trout Release Day, which was the culminating event for the TIC season. Participating schools in the eastern part of the state traveled to Aksarben Aquarium to take part in a release day, while schools in the western part of the state travelled to Lake Ogallala for a field trip. In total, ten release days were held and approximately 1,000 rainbow trout were released. During Trout Release Days, students learned about aquatic macroinvertebrates, fly fishing and fly tying, basic fishing, and fish anatomy. While the program has received only compliments and praises from teachers, students and parents, the real accomplishments will manifest when the students become future policy makers, anglers, and parents and share their sense of stewardship.
- July 13-14, 2015 (Monday - Tuesday) - 3rd Quarter Board meeting, Lied Lodge, Nebraska City
- August 7, 2015 (Friday) - Lancaster County Fair - Go Green Day, Lancaster Event Center, Lincoln
- August 28 - September 7, 2015 - Nebraska State Fair
- September 29, 2015 - Nature Palooza, School of Natural Resources, UNL