A Monthly Publication of the Nebraska Environmental Trust
Dave Heineman, Governor
Board of Trustees
In This Issue:
Executive Director Corner
Bills to take funds from the Trust, limit the Trust’s granting authority, change voting and a resolution to eliminate the Trust are all part of the 2011 Nebraska Legislative package.
There are five pieces of legislation directly affecting the Nebraska Environmental Trust. There are four bills (LB229, LB366, LB395 and LB529) and one legislative resolution (LR51CA).
LB229 takes $7 M a year for the next 11 years from the Trust (a total of $77 M) and places it in the Water Resources Cash Fund controlled by the Nebraska Department of Natural Resources.
LB366 allows a simple majority vote of the Trust Board for actions related to grant approval, where current language requires a vote of not fewer than eight board members to deviate from the subcommittee’s recommendations.
LB395 would not allow the five agency directors on the Trust Board to vote.
LB529 prohibits charitable corporations or trusts from acquiring perpetual easements and only allowing ten-year easements that would need to be renewed every ten years with notification to the county board. It also restricts the Environmental Trust to allocating no more than ten percent of grant funds each year for land purchases and easements and only political subdivisions are allowed to use Trust funds for land acquisition.
LR51CA 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 the funds to the Water Resources Cash Fund and the other half to the University of Nebraska Board of Regents for the Nebraska Innovation Campus through 2038 and then to the General Fund after that.
There are a number of other bills pertaining to conservation, but the five bills above are the ones the Trust will concentrate on this session. If you have any questions about any of these bills feel free to contact me at any time. Many Trust supporters have begun working on these legislative matters and their support is much appreciated.
Mark A. Brohman
Notice of NET 1st Quarter Board Meeting
The Nebraska Environmental Trust 1st Quarter Board Meeting will be held on February 3, 2011 (Thursday), 1:30 at the Ferguson House.
Project BEAK ( Bird Education and Awareness for Kids)
(submitted by Lindsay Rogers)
Environmental education plays a critical role in the conservation of biological diversity. For conservation efforts to be successful in Nebraska, more people need to be made aware of and become knowledgeable about the state’s rich biological diversity – including our bird species.
In 2008, the Nebraska Bird Partnership began working on a large-scale educational effort aimed at teaching Nebraska students about Nebraska birds. Through funding from the Nebraska Environmental Trust and the U.S. EPA, Project BEAK (Bird Education and Awareness for Kids) was created. This interactive website – www.projectbeak.org – is filled with scientifically-accurate, Nebraska-specific information dealing with avian adaptations, interactions with people, threatened and endangered species, and most importantly how to get out and go birding.
Once the Project BEAK website went live in October 2009, four educator workshops were completed across the state – Scottsbluff, Gibbon, Denton, and Bellevue. These workshops provided educators with the knowledge and confidence to incorporate birds, birding, and conservation into their curriculums. Educators attending the workshops received numerous resources for their classrooms including a classroom set of “Birds of Nebraska” identification books, posters, and bird call CD’s.
As part of this grant, the Nebraska Bird Partnership also set out to create an online, comprehensive guide to all Nebraska birds. The result is the Nebraska Bird Library – www.nebraskabirdlibrary.org. The website contains species accounts for the over 400 bird species which can be found in Nebraska. Searchable by color, size, region, habitat, or by common or scientific name, each bird species account is filled with high quality images, bird descriptions, songs, habitat information, and Nebraska-specific range maps.
Both Project BEAK and the Nebraska Bird Library are dedicated to helping Nebraskans identify and learn about Nebraska’s birds. Communities across the state have visited the websites. To date, the Project BEAK website has received over 4,500 visits from 65 countries and all 50 states. The Nebraska Bird Library website has received nearly 1,000 visits. Both sites have received extremely positive feedback from numerous Nebraskans.
Beginner or expert, Project BEAK and the Nebraska Bird Library are ready to help you get out and go birding!
Don’t Forget Wildlife at Tax Time
(submitted by Kristal Stoner)
For most people, filling out your state income tax form is little cause for excitement. However, filing your state income tax return could be made a little more joyful by contributing all or a portion of your refund to the Wildlife Conservation Fund. You can make a donation simply by filling in the line next to the peregrine falcon symbol on your income tax form. Proceeds from the tax check-off are a principal means of funding projects for the more than 30,000 species of birds, fish, mammals, reptiles, and plants that are not hunted or fished. Additionally, checkoff donations are matched to other grant sources which require a financial match before they can be used; so a donation of $10 allows $40 to be spent on wildlife projects.
Western Slender Glass Lizard
Photo credit: Dan Fogell
Many of these species are exceedingly rare or experiencing serious declines due to changes in habitat and human development. For example, the Western Slender Glass Lizard is Nebraska’s rarest lizard, with only two recorded locations. Completely legless, the Western Slender Glass Lizard had not been seen in Nebraska since 1932. In 2009, funds from the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission’s Wildlife Conservation Fund funded a project to determine if the species was still in the state, and therefore in need of conservation. In August, a female glass lizard was captured. During 2010, two more glass lizards were found in Franklin County and one was found in Webster County. Thanks to the Wildlife Conservation Fund program, we now know that the Western Slender Glass Lizard still calls Nebraska home.
Since the inception of the Wildlife Conservation Fund in the early 1980s, projects benefiting many species have been completed. Successful projects include habitat based projects, such as clearing islands in the Platte River for least terns and piping plovers. River Otters were reintroduced to Nebraska, and population levels are currently being evaluated to determine if they may be removed from the state endangered species list. The Wildlife Conservation Fund also provides support for education projects such as Project BEAK (projectbeak.org) and the associated Bird Library (nebraskabirdlibrary.org) and wildlife viewing cams such as the tern cam (http://www.ternandplover.unl.edu/terncam.htm). The Wildlife Conservation Fund also funds valuable research projects like the slender glass lizard project and others such as the long-billed curlew project (http://www.birdsnebraska.org). Other projects funded by the nongame tax check-off program include the successful reintroduction of peregrine falcons, a flying squirrel nest box and monitoring program, development of a partnership to monitor birds in Nebraska’s shortgrass prairie, a study of the ornate box turtle and the breeding bird atlas.
Individuals not receiving a tax refund can make a donation on-line by using the Game and Parks Commission’s secure website. Donations can be made by credit card on the Commission’s website at http://nebraskawildlifefund.org.
Donations can also be mailed to the following address:
For more information about the nongame check-off contact Kristal Stoner, Wildlife Diversity Program Manager, Nebraska Game & Parks Commission (402)471-5444 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Rainwater Basin Informational Seminar
The 16th Annual Rainwater Basin Joint Venture Informational Seminar will take place on February 2, 2011 (Wednesday).
To register, please e-mail each attendee’s name, organization/agency, mailing address and e-mail address to email@example.com no later than Wednesday, January 26, 2011, so adequate facilities and meal counts may be ensured.
If you prefer to register by mail, please send the above information to Shanda Weber at NRCS, 2727 W. 2nd, Suite 102, Hastings, NE 68901-4663. You may also fax your registration to 402-462-6771 attn: Shanda or telephone at 402-463-6771 ext. 112.
Registration fee for the workshop is $20.00 per person. The registration fee, which will be collected at the registration table, includes break refreshments and lunch. Landowners and farm operators are invited to attend free of charge so please tell any of your personal landowner/operators about this opportunity in case they are not on our mailing that went out last week. This year’s schedule will be posted soon on our website, www.rwbjv.org.
- February 2, 2011 (Wednesday) - The 16th Annual Rainwater Basin Joint Venture Informational Seminar, 9:00am - 4:30pm, Hastings Quality Inn
- February 3, 2011 (Thursday) - Nebraska Environmental Trust 1st Quarter Board Meeting, Ferguson House, Lincoln, 1:30 pm.
- March 17-20, 2011 (Thursday - Sunday) - 41st Rivers and Wildlife Conference
- April 7, 2011 (Thursday) - Nebraska Environmental Trust 2nd Quarter Board Meeting, Ferguson House, Lincoln, 1:30 pm.