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

November 2015

In This Issue:

  1. Executive Director Corner
  2. The Transit Authority of Omaha: Central Omaha Bus Rapid Transit: Connecting The Dots
  3. Historic Ferguson House Holiday Tours
  4. Public Information and Education (PIE) Grants
  5. Upcoming Events


Executive Director Corner

I have been invited to speak at a number of engagements recently, including the Nebraska Water Environment Association in Kearney, Nov. 5; the Smart Energy Expo in Omaha, Nov. 15; and the Nebraska Association of County Officials, Weed Control Association meeting in Kearney December 10.  Marilyn and I attended the two day Urban Thinkers Campus meeting in Omaha.  It was one of only two meetings held in the U.S., the other being in New York City.  A total of 28 events are being held around the world.  The topic was, “The role and opportunities in urban sustainability for small and mid-sized cities”.  We will both attend the 2015 Nebraska Conservation Summit on Dec. 7 in Omaha.  I will also be attending the Nebraska Prescribed Fire Council’s third annual Prescribed Fire Conference in Kearney on Dec. 1.

The Trust board met in Lincoln on Nov. 3rd and the next meeting will be Feb.  4, 2016.  The Grants Committee has met once and will meet four more times before producing their preliminary rank order list that is presented to the full board on Feb. 4th. 

The Lincoln Journal Star and the Omaha World Herald ran nice articles on the Ron and Carol Patterson easements that are part of the Schramm Bluffs project that the Trust has participated with the Nebraska Land Trust, the Natural Resources Conservation Service and their Farm and Ranch Protection Program, landowners and others.  In all, 1,240 acres are being protected through eight agreements and it has taken seven years to get it accomplished.

A quick note about the Cornhuskers.  The volleyball team continues to do well and stay top ranked.  The football team however has had its up and downs, but managed to beat a top-10 team (Michigan State) and will get another shot at a top-10 team when Iowa comes to Lincoln on Nov. 27th.  They have had their share of bad luck this season, but maybe the tide is turning for Coach Riley and his boys. 

Have a great Thanksgiving and if you get a chance, stop by our Holiday Open House at the Ferguson House on Sunday, Dec. 6th 1:00-5:00.

Mark Brohman
Executive Director  


The Transit Authority of Omaha: Central Omaha Bus Rapid Transit: Connecting The Dots

With support from the Nebraska Environmental Trust, Metro Transit is building the first Bus Rapid Transit project in Omaha.  Bus Rapid Transit, more commonly known as BRT, is designed to look, feel and operate like a rail project using specialized transit buses.  The BRT will run every 10 minutes on Dodge Street between Westroads Mall and downtown Omaha.  This corridor serves as the spine of the transit system in Omaha and connects with nearly every Metro route.  It also links major employment, residential and educational centers along the corridor.  BRT includes upscale rail-like stations at limited stops, priority treatment over other vehicles, and a unique brand and identity.  It also features a number of amenities for passenger comfort and convenience including technology and signage showing real-time arrival information and improved fare collection systems.

Last year, Metro was awarded a highly competitive $15 million federal Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant towards the BRT, one of only 72 in the country out of 797 applications.  Since then, the support of local partners such as the Nebraska Environmental Trust has been crucial.  Funding from the Trust has helped inspire confidence and trust in the project and serves as leverage as Metro seeks funding for the local match for the federal grants from other sources.  It has also elevated the importance of transit as an environmentally friendly solution for our community.  Support from the Trust has resulted in new partnerships with local stakeholders in order to pursue utilizing alternative fuel technology.

Predicted to reduce harmful emissions at a value of $2.4 million over 20 years, the BRT will play an important role in improving air quality in the greater Omaha region which is in danger of reaching non-attainment status of federal air quality standards.  Emphasis on air quality provides the opportunity to invest in innovative transportation infrastructure such as the BRT, which is also poised to provide numerous other benefits to the community.  The BRT will not only reduce emissions from personal vehicles but will help to shape a more sustainable built environment and development patterns in the Omaha region. While the objective of the BRT is to improve mobility, the BRT will also promote economic and infill development, create vibrant and livable communities with public spaces around stations and expand access to employment and educational opportunities. 

This project is the first of its kind in Nebraska and it is being implemented under an expedited timeline (the BRT will be open by Fall 2018). To overcome these challenges, Metro has worked very closely with numerous partners including the Metropolitan Area Planning Agency, the City of Omaha, the Nebraska Department of Roads, the Federal Transit Administration, and a dedicated and involved stakeholder committee.  These partnerships have been instrumental in keeping this project on schedule while using best practices from BRT systems around the world to plan for a truly innovative project.   


Omaha prepares for the new BRT in 2018


Historic Ferguson House Holiday Tours

The Nebraska Environmental Trust will host a holiday open house at the historic Ferguson House (office of the Nebraska Environmental Trust) on Sunday, December 6th. The public is invited to visit and tour the 104 year-old Renaissance Revival home from 1 to 5 p.m. Also open on December 6th is the neighboring Kennard House. There is no charge to experience these historic treasures decorated for the holiday season.


The Ferguson House on 700 South 16th St

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 alfalfa 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 the property was 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 meetings and events.


Public Information and Education (PIE) Grant Report for 2015

This year marks the sixth full year that the Nebraska Academy of Sciences (NAS) has administered the Nebraska Environmental Trust (NET) Public Information and Education mini-grant program.  The first grants that the Academy reviewed were submitted in the fourth quarter of 2009 and were awarded in 2010.  Since then NAS has reviewed and awarded over $240,000 to numerous recipients all across the state.

In calendar year 2015 NAS received a total of 36 grant applications and a total request of $91,314.  Almost $42,000 has been awarded to date and the fourth quarter award is yet to be determined.  Grant applications for the first quarter of 2016 will be accepted until January 8, 2016.

This past year NAS received applications for numerous types of projects; recycling guides, garden greenhouses and garden projects, many different types of water quality and conservation projects, as well as habitat and environmental education and improvement projects. Grants were awarded to a few research projects and quite a number of grants were given to entities for conference or meeting support in order to bring in special speakers, publish educational materials, or provide activities to help attendees understand environmental concepts.   Awards were granted to school groups, private foundations, individuals and government entities such as Natural Resources Districts and city and county governments. 

These projects all promise to improve our environment, increase education in environmental areas and touch many of our Nebraska citizens in meaningful ways.  Here are just a few highlights from grant reports submitted in 2015.

-Nebraska Farmers Union – Vermi-Composting Education
-Nebraska State Fair – Recycle Informational Signage
-Groundwater Foundation – Education for the Next Generation of Water1ders
-Tri-Basin NRD – Water Jamboree
-Omaha Children’s Museum – Maker Faire

One of the guidelines NAS reviewers use in evaluating grant applications is how many people are reached with the limited funds available and how easy it would be for other groups to use the same materials or process to reach an even wider audience.  The two groups mentioned above do an excellent job of making the best use of grant funds in reaching the widest audience.

The Nebraska Environmental Trust Public Information and Education Mini-Grant Program awards mini-grants of up to $3,000 each, to support the presentation and dissemination of information and perspectives that will stimulate enhanced environmental stewardship in any category eligible for Nebraska Environmental Trust (NET) funding.  These categories are habitat, surface and ground water, waste management, air quality and soil management.  The grant expands dialogue on important current conservation topics and provides information on emerging or highly useful conservation methods.  All Nebraska individuals, private organizations and public entities are eligible to apply for these funds. 


Upcoming Events

- December 6, 2015 (Sunday), 1 - 5 p.m. - Christmas Holiday Open House

- February 4, 2016 (Thursday), 1:30pm - 1st Quarter Board Meeting, Ferguson House, Lincoln NE.

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