A Monthly Publication of the Nebraska Environmental Trust
Dave Heineman, Governor
Board of Trustees
In This Issue:
Executive Director Corner
With the warmer weather Nebraskans can now envision the spring and know that summer can’t be far behind. Calving season is underway and farmers are getting the itch to fire up the tractors and thinking of getting a crop in the ground.
The Legislature remains the top priority of the Trust. There are five pieces of legislation impacting the Trust, 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. This bill was forwarded from the Natural Resources Committee and prioritized by Senator Tyson Larson of O’Neill. It is on General File, but has not been discussed on the floor of the Legislature yet. We appreciate all of the support the Trust has received on LB299. This bill has received a lot of attention, including supportive editorials in the Omaha World Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, Scottsbluff Star-Herald and other papers.
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 Grant Committee’s recommendations. This has been the practice because the Grant Committee is required to read all of the applications and their hard work is recognized with the added authority the existing process gives them. It will require a 30 day waiting period between hearings and decisions on proposed projects and funding. Currently the Trust Board votes on applications the same day as the public hearing is held. This is the process that is followed by most State agencies and a 30 day wait period is unusual. It also requires the Grants Committee to abide by the Open Meetings Law, which is currently the practice. This bill was voted out of the Natural Resources Committee, passed first round debate (General File) and is now on Select File.
LB395 would not allow the five agency directors on the Trust Board to vote. This bill remains in the Natural Resources Committee and will remain alive until killed or next session ends.
LB529 prohibits charitable corporations or trusts from acquiring perpetual easements and only allows 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 only political subdivisions are allowed to use Trust funds for land acquisition. This bill will go to an interim study to allow all of the involved parties to discuss the concerns.
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, then to the General Fund after that. This resolution is being held for now in the Natural Resources Committee, but until it is killed or next session comes to an end, it is alive.
The Trust appreciates all of the support individuals and organizations have provided. Letters to the editors, newspaper editorials, contacts to Senators and other actions have been overwhelming. Thanks to everyone who has participated in any way.
Mark A. Brohman
Grantee Seminars in April
The Trust is organizing a series of grantee seminars in three locations after the 2011 Grant Awards are announced on April 7, 2011. Details of the seminars have already been mailed to grantees. We look forward to seeing you in Lincoln, Grand Island and Scottsbluff. See "Upcoming Events" for details.
Organic Farming Statewide
Modeled after a pilot project in northeast Nebraska that transitioned nearly 4,000 acres, the Organic Farming State-Wide Project provides farmers and ranchers in nine of the twelve Resource Conservation & Development (RC&D) Councils with the knowledge base needed to make an informed decision on how this 4-year organic transition program fits their goals, farm/ranch and environment.
Transitioning from a commodity-managed farm or ranch to the organic production model is complicated, time consuming, and riddled with financial and personal risks. To reduce some of the financial risk, USDA provided financial incentives through the Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP), but no information or training program existed to provide farmers with the knowledge and skill base needed to avoid personal and production failure.
The focus of this project is Nebraska’s farming and ranching community that satisfies the state’s food, fiber, and now fuel needs. Unfortunately, much of the non-point source pollution in Nebraska’s ground and surface water can be traced to the chemicals used by these commodity agriculture producers. Organic growers, on the other hand, rely on management practices instead of chemicals to grow their crops.
Through face-to-face and electronic meetings and tours in each RC&D area, farmers and agency staff learned the National Organic Program (NOP) rules and visited with experienced growers to learn the “Whats and Hows” of organic farming and marketing. As a result, farmers were better able to make informed decisions and agency staff felt more confident writing and administering EQIP transition contracts.
Currently in its third year, this project played a major role in the transition of over 56,700 acres to organic transition status, acres that no longer contribute to non-point source pollution.
Pheasants Forever Recognition Award for Marilyn Tabor
Marilyn Tabor, center, received recognition from Game and Parks for her outstanding efforts in promoting the ideals of wildlife conservation and successful partnerships. Marilyn provided the integral support and administration for many grants and partnerships in the state. The recognition certificate stated that in her role she created a legacy of better wildlife habitat, land stewardship and youth education in the state.
- 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.
- April 13, 2011 (Wednesday) - Grantee Seminar in Lincoln, Lincoln Woman's Club, 9:15am
- April 14, 2011 (Thursday) - Grantee Seminar in Grand Island, Central Platte NRD, 9:15am
- April 15, 2011(Friday) - Grantee Seminar in Scottsbluff, North Platte NRD, 9:15am
- April 23, 2011 (Saturday) - Earth Day Omaha
- April 23, 2011 (Saturday) - Lincoln Earth Day