A Monthly Publication of the Nebraska Environmental Trust
Dave Heineman, Governor
Board of Trustees
In This Issue:
Executive Director Corner
The conservationists, environmentalists, sportsmen and women came together to support the Trust this legislative session and it showed. Two bills (LB395 and LB529) and one resolution (LR521CA) are being held in the Natural Resources Committee and one bill (LB366) was modified slightly and one bill (LB229) was drastically altered.
Senators commented that they received more contacts on LB229, than any other issue this session. A greatly amended LB229 passed 38-4 from Select File to Final Reading and is waiting for final approval. The compromise bill is something we can all live with at this time. The Trust and our supporters negotiated with Senators and agricultural groups to reach a compromise. The original bill proposed to take $7M a year for 11 years ($77M total) from the Trust. The altered bill directs the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to apply for a three year Trust grant for $3.3M a year and that application will receive 50 bonus points if it has $3.3M each year in State matching funds. If the DNR meets certain criteria over the three year application, they will be eligible to come back to the Trust in three years to apply again. The criteria are listed in LB229. There will be an interim study submitted to form a water task force to tackle a number of issues, including finding long-term water funding, the projects needed to address Nebraska’s water needs, the costs of those projects and legislation that may be needed. The Trust has always funded water applications and the goals of LB229 in over and fully appropriated basins overlap with the Trust’s mission.
LB 336 - changes the number of Trust Board members it takes to modify the Grant Committee recommendations, requires the Trust Grant Committee to follow the Open Meetings Laws and requires a 30 day wait period after Trust public hearings before making final decisions. This bill was pulled back from Final Reading and the 30 day requirement was removed and the bill was returned to Final Reading and passed by the Legislature.
LB 395 – makes the five agency directors on the Trust board non-voting members. This bill is still in Committee and may be killed.
LB 529 – prohibits charitable corporations (like Wachiska, Duck Unlimited and the Nebraska Land Trust) from acquiring perpetual easements, restricts the Trust to allocating only ten percent of grant funds each year for land purchases and easements and limits those funds to political subdivisions. This bill is still in Committee and there will be an interim study to examine the underlying issues of the bill.
LR 51CA – would put a Constitutional Amendment on the November 2012 ballot, that if approved by the voters, would change the State Constitution, eliminating the Trust by giving half of the Trust’s funds to the Water Resources Cash Fund and half to UNL’s Board of Regents for the Nebraska Innovation Campus through 2038 and then to the General Fund. This bill is still in Committee and may be killed.
It has been a long session for the Trust, but it appears we can step back and take a deep breath for now. Let’s hope the next Legislative session isn’t as hectic.
2011 Grant Awards Announced
At a meeting in Lincoln on April 7, the board of the Nebraska Environmental Trust announced that 94 projects will receive $15,412,788 in lottery proceeds for natural resource work in Nebraska. This is the 18th year of grants from the Trust, which has provided over $172 million dollars in lottery revenue to preserve and protect the air, water and land of our state. Some of the projects receiving funding include:
A complete listing of all approved 2011 grants can be found on the Nebraska Environmental Trust web site at www.environmentaltrust.org.
Grantee Seminars well received
The Trust recently had its grantee seminars in Lincoln, Grand Island and Scottsbluff from April 13-15. Staff members had the opportunity to meet and interact with new grant recipients as well as existing ones. Grantees were briefed on the grants process as well as publicity aspects of managing the grant. A total of 100 people attended the seminars.
32nd Annual Governor's Day
Mark Brohman, Executive Director and Board member Vince Kramper attended the 32nd Annual Governor’s Day sponsored by the South Sioux City Area Chamber, South Sioux City Community Schools, City of South Sioux City, Dakota County and City of Dakota City on April 18, 2011. The event was held at the Cornhusker Marriott Hotel in Lincoln. During the Luncheon the Nebraska Environmental Trust was given the Friend of Dakota County Award and presented a locally built bird feeder that was accepted by Mr. Brohman and Mr. Kramper. Several State Senators and Governor Dave Heineman were present at the event.
Several Trust grants have been awarded in the South Sioux City area over the past 18 years including an award this year for an industrial wastewater treatment plant biogas energy recovery system. The $580,900 grant will allow the City to purchase two engine generators to utilize methane gas to produce electricity.
Bennington Public School - Wetland Restoration and Education Project
Bennington Public Schools has been awarded a $28,000 grant from the Environmental Trust to convert part of school property north of the high school into a wetland and outdoor learning environment. Currently this area is being farmed and the land is a low area that experiences standing surface water after heavy rains in the spring and fall, making it an ideal location for this project.
Creating this wetland will increase species diversity for wildlife and vegetation creating an outdoor learning environment where students can learn about the effects and the benefits a wetland has on its surroundings. The plans also include an arboretum that will add to the educational value of the site.
Implementing the wetland would benefit the biology, life science, environmental science, chemistry, art and language arts curriculum at all grade levels. For the residents of Bennington, the wetlands and arboretum will provide recreational opportunities such as bird watching, photography, and enjoyment of nature.
Matching funds for this project will be provided by the Papio-Missouri Natural Resources District, Washington County and Douglas County Pheasants Forever Chapters, and the school district.The project should be completed this summer and ready for kids and teachers to use when school starts in August 2011.