A Monthly Publication of the Nebraska Environmental Trust
Dave Heineman, Governor
Board of Trustees
In This Issue:
Executive Director Corner
After a very mild winter it will be interesting to see what the spring and early summer bring. Western Nebraska is rapidly falling behind normal in precipitation and folks fear a drought may be headed their way. Most of central and eastern Nebraska appears to be at or above normal precipitation at this point.
The Trust awarded a record $19.2 million in grants the first week in April. As always, there were not enough funds to cover the many great grants that were submitted. We held Grantee Seminars in Lincoln and Kearney to remind past recipients and to inform new recipients of the grant requirements, including publicity and reporting. We participated in Earth Day celebrations in Lincoln and Omaha. The Groundwater Festival is coming up on May 8th in Grand Island and the Trust will have a booth at the event.
The legislature adjourned for the year on April 12th. The Trust escaped the session with no new legislation impacting it. Several Senators will be term-limited out this year and we’ll see a lot of new faces come January. There are some very important budgetary concerns that will need to be addressed next year and I’m sure water issues will continue to make headlines.
Our next Trust board meeting will be July 19th and 20th at Fort Robinson, near Crawford.
Mark A. Brohman
Panhandle Program Preserves Grassland
With the potential expiration of contracts protecting more than 260,000 acres of Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) land in the Panhandle by 2013, Panhandle natural resources districts and the Natural Resources Conservation Service have teamed together to preserve regional grassland cover.
Preserving CRP Benefits in Western Nebraska, a three year program funded by the NRDs and a grant from the Nebraska Environmental Trust (NET), seeks to ensure highly erodible land remains in cover, yet continues to produce income for landowners.
With the large amount of acres that could potentially be returned to production due to expiring contracts, officials have been concerned over the possible loss of CRP’s benefits to air, water, soil and wildlife resources.
With that in mind the panhandle NRDs, with the South Platte as lead agency, joined the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission and NRCS for a NET grant to help landowners with CRP contracts maintain grasslands.
Funding to build perimeter fences around CRP ground is one of the program’s main benefits. While NRCS programs such as the Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP) provide for assistance with other components to implement a livestock grazing system, perimeter fences are not.
The program has benefited over 4,560 acres, with nearly 25 miles of perimeter fence installed. Total costs thus far for the Preserving CRP Benefits in Western Nebraska program are $192,570 of which the Nebraska Environmental Trust has contributed $39,983.00.
Eastern Redcedar Clearing Gives Opportunity to the Next Generation of Ranchers
Three months ago the University of Nebraska – Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture (NCTA) burned its first woodchips in a new biomass plant funded through a partnership NCTA and the Nebraska Forest Service created with the Nebraska Environmental Trust Fund, Nebraska Energy Office and the Nebraska 309 Commission. The central focus of the project is to aid in the eradication of the Eastern redcedar, an invasive species, that has taken over 350,000 acres of Nebraska grazing land and is currently producing 103, 000 tons of new growth per year.
It is critical that redcedar production stop through tree harvest. The harvest will increase cattle stocking rates by 20-50%. This increase could be a real boon to NCTA students enrolled in the 100 Beef Cow Ownership Advantage program. This program’s objective is to help NCTA students to start building collateral in cattle very early in their career so that one day they will own ranches. Since the redcedar shades out grass, its removal will allow grass to grow again. Therefore, if NCTA students remove the redcedar from the producers pastures through a “sweat equity’ agreement the resulting grass could be used to graze more cattle. A win-win for both the rancher and the student. The rancher stops the continued proliferation of the redcedar and the student gets grass for his/her cows that were not there before the trees were removed. An added bonus is the rancher will also increase the quality of the wildlife habitat that will result in a healthier environment and create additional jobs through agro tourism activities.
The NCTA Biomass Project adds value to the harvested redcedar trees. In addition to the NRCS EQUIP payment for clearing the trees NCTA will pay producers for woodchips produced to heat its campus. While this process still emits carbon dioxide into the atmosphere it eliminates 558 tons of fossil fuel emissions per year. This small pilot plant will burn 1,500 tons of woodchips per year and will also be a resource to other public and private entities interested in the potential of decreasing the cost of fuel and carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere through fossil fuels.
In addition to the production of woodchips for fuel, NCTA and the Nebraska Forest Service are currently reviewing other value added redcedar products. They include posts, mulch for landscaping and animal bedding.
To visit the project call Weldon Sleight at 308-367-5200 (NCTA) or Adam Smith at 402-472-1276 (Nebraska Forest Service)
Rex Amack's Retirement from the Trust Board
The Trust Board and staff members honored Rex Amack for his service on the Trust Board on April 5, 2012 at the 2nd Quarter Board meeting. Rex is one of the longest serving board members and has been with the Trust since its inception in 1992. The other longest serving Board member is Vince Kramper, who is currently the Chairman of the Trust Board.
Mark Brohman, Executive Director of the Trust present Amack with a token of appreciation (pictured above)
Unveling the 20th Anniversary Trust Logo
Our new logo for the 20th Anniversary this year has just been unveiled. Grantees are encouraged to use the logo till the end of the year. The logo may be downloaded from our website.
- April 28, 2012 (Saturday) - Zorinsky Lake Opening, Omaha.
- May 8, 2012 (Tuesday) - The Annual Children's Groundwater Festival, Grand Island.
- June 9, 2012 (Saturday) - 4th Biennial Waterfest, Holmes Lake, Lincoln
- July 9-13, 2012 - Celebrating 20 Years of Preservation with the Nebraska Environmental Trust, Rotunda, State Capitol, Lincoln
- July 19-20, 2012 (Thursday/Friday) - Nebraska Environmental Trust 3rd Quarter Board Meeting, Ft. Robinson State Park.
- September 4, 2012 (Tuesday) - General and Recognition Grant Application Deadline
- November 8, 2012 (Tuesday) - Nebraska Environmental Trust 4th Quarter Board Meeting, Ferguson House, Lincoln.