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Grantee Stories

raingarden

Prairie Corridor Project, City of Lincoln

Lincoln and Lancaster County are located in the Tallgrass Prairie Ecoregion, which was historically covered by native tallgrass prairie and home to bison, antelope, grassland birds, and many other plants and animals. This tallgrass prairie is a remarkable, and unfortunately now rare, part of our natural and cultural heritage.  Nebraska Natural Legacy Project notes that “approximately two percent of Nebraska’s tallgrass prairie remains, mostly as remnants less than eighty acres in size.”

The Prairie Corridor on Haines Branch, funded in part with grants from the Nebraska Environmental Trust, will be a 13-mile corridor of virgin and reestablished tallgrass prairie along a trail generally following the Haines Branch of Salt Creek.  The Prairie Corridor presents a unique opportunity to reduce fragmentation with an interconnected, diverse habitat.  In addition to tallgrass prairie, riparian stream corridors, woodlands and both freshwater and saline wetlands provide unique habitat, supporting a variety of plant, animal and insect species.  Land and easements purchased from interested landowners support these conservation and restoration efforts.  

A 10-mile trail supported by matching funds will invite families and visitors to get out and immerse themselves in the prairie and will help to reconnect people with nature.  A 1 ½-mile segment is planned to connect to the Conestoga State Recreation Area currently undergoing renovation.  The Pioneers Park Nature Center and Spring Creek Prairie Audubon Center that will bookend the Prairie Corridor trail already offer interactive programs for thousands of students and families each year.  Every fourth grader in Lincoln has the opportunity to experience the beauty and diversity of the tallgrass prairie thanks to the Prairie Immersion program, a collaborative effort of the two centers, the Lower Platte South Natural Resources District, and Lincoln Public Schools.  This project will build on the strong foundation already offered by these destinations. The trail is also a key component of economic opportunity and ecotourism, as it will allow people to immerse themselves in the tallgrass prairie to experience this unique attraction and to make connections between these important resources. The 20-mile roundtrip trail ride will encourage visitors to stay another day in Lincoln and bring them through rural towns like the Village of Denton.

Lincoln Parks and Recreation, the Lower Platte South Natural Resources District (NRD), and Spring Creek Prairie Audubon Center (SCPAC), along with the Lincoln Parks Foundation, Lancaster County and over 20 other partners, have made significant progress since the project’s inception in 2013.  Over 800 acres have been conserved through the purchase of land and easements.  Restoration and enhancement work has included the re-establishment of high diversity tallgrass prairie on about 120 acres, and the use of management techniques including prescribed fire, haying, and cedar removal to enhance existing grassland areas.  Nearly 2 ½ miles of trail have also been completed to the western edge of Pioneers Park.  Research performed by University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s School of Natural Resources is examining how to increase pollinator species in the design and management of prairie reestablishment, and is monitoring plant and pollinator species abundance and richness as indicators of habitat that is most supportive of a high pollinator diversity.

Last year, the Lincoln Parks Foundation convened a group of 16 community members chaired by nationally recognized conservationist and photographer Michael Forsberg to assist in community engagement, fundraising, and other aspects of the project as it continues to progress.  The City of Lincoln also entered into long-term agreements with both the NRD and SCPAC, and approved funding to start building an endowment, all of which will help provide sustainability for the project moving into the future. The project partners are continuing landowner outreach, habitat enhancement, development of the trail, and public engagement, and are working to enhance communication through social media.

Additional information about the project can be found at prairiecorridor.org, on social media @prairiecorridor, or by contacting the project team at prairiecorridor@lincoln.ne.gov.

 

take it back nebraska

Geothermal Greenhouse, North Platte NRD

The North Platte NRD has completed construction of a geothermal greenhouse that includes a teaching facility. This facility is modeled on a successful geothermal greenhouse in Alliance, Nebraska, which has been operating for over 25 years. The greenhouse is approximately 138' x 17' and will have a 14' interior height and is wheelchair accessible. The design specifications included constructing the base of the greenhouse at approximately four feet below grade. A geothermal ground air exchanger will supply heating/cooling to the greenhouse. Tubes have been placed 8 feet below ground surface; the ground is a constant 52° Fahrenheit (F) at that depth, and air from the tubes comes up into the fans to be distributed throughout the greenhouse keeping it warm in the winter. Automated fans will be installed at both ends of the building to pump hot air out in the summer and to pull cool air in from the tubes. The greenhouse will maintain year-round growing temperatures between 32° and 90° F and will support many varieties of citrus trees and vegetables. All food grown will be donated to the local Veterans Home and harvest so far has included 32 cucumbers weighing a total of 17.25 lbs.   Excess produce beyond the veterans' needs will be donated to local food pantries serving Scotts Bluff, South Sioux, Garden, Morrill and Banner Counties. This fall, landscaping on the 1.6 acres outside the greenhouse will include 70 plots of different varieties of native and introduced grasses, with signs listing the variety or mixtures of grasses planted. Students from area schools will be able to view each individual grass to improve both range judging skills and knowledge of local plant ecology. Plots of native mixtures used by Farm Service Agency for the Conservation Reserve Program will be planted. This will include CP-1, CP-2, CP-4A, and CP-25 mixtures, as well as examples of several different grass mixtures best suited for wildlife, haying, or grazing.

 

Zoo Produces Solar Electricity for the Public to Experience

 

 

Through the assistance of a grant from the Nebraska Environmental Trust, a solar photovoltaic panel array has been installed at the north end of the African Grasslands near the Safari Tent Camp at Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium.

This project was a partnership between the Zoo’s Facilities and Education teams, Creighton’s Energy Technology Program, Verdis Group and Morrissey Engineering. These organizations came up with the idea to show the Zoo’s over 2 million visitors how accessible solar energy can be in Nebraska. Creighton students also supported the Zoo’s Education Team in the development of K-6th lessons for the Zoo After-School Program about this solar installation, helping to teach hundreds of students about the benefits of solar electricity.  An educational interactive solar panel and digital screen provide education on the environmental benefits of solar produced electricity.

The 25-kW array of solar panels will provide its own electricity to help eliminate greenhouse gas emissions from a portion of the African Grasslands exhibit. The project expects to lessen the Zoo’s impact on the natural environment in hopes to set an example of strategies that can reduce loss of biodiversity.  Solar PV reduces the natural resources needed to generate electricity, and improves habitats, water quality and quantity, reduces waste, and improves air quality and human health when compared to the energy mix currently used in Nebraska, and in Omaha specifically.  This array is expected to avoid 1427 metric tons of CO2e over the 40-year life cycle of the panels. This is equivalent to avoiding nearly 1.53 million pounds of coal burned.  For over half the year, the solar array will produce 100% of the electricity needs for areas such as the lion viewing structure, the overnight Safari camps, restrooms, as well as nearby lighting.

In addition to generating electricity for the Zoo, the structure supporting the solar panels will provide much needed shade for Zoo guests waiting in line to board Skyfari.

 

RMBO

Utilizing Poultry Feathers and Used Plastic for High Value Products Observatory

This project utilizes disposed poultry feathers and used plastic bags to develop composites for automotive, construction and furniture industries. Feathers act as reinforcement and the plastic bags melt and bind the feathers resulting in a composite. More than 4 billion pounds of poultry feathers are disposed in landfills in the United States every year. Similarly, the United States consumes 100 billion plastic bags every year and only 1 out of 5 bags is recycled. Disposing feathers and plastic bags in landfills not only creates environmental problems but is also a waste of valuable resources. Utilizing feathers and plastic bags to develop composites offer an opportunity to reduce the amount of waste disposed in landfills, add value and help the poultry farmers economically and also decrease our dependence on non-renewable petroleum resources for polymers.

 

no-tillContinous No Till, PrairieLand RC & D

The Nebraska Continuous No-till (CNT) project’s state-wide effort to increase the adoption and sustainable use of CNT by 1 million acres through education has been achieved!  The project continues to create a broad partnership of currently recognized leaders in CNT working together to show how the practice of CNT works across the entire state of Nebraska to reduce soil erosion, improve soil quality, and reduce irrigation and fuel requirements.  NET funds are used for state-wide/regional/local CNT events, a UNL Extension No-till Specialist, a Western Nebraska No-till Educator, a project administrator and to develop and distribute educational materials.  This project has given over 1,300 residents 14,000 hours of education and allowed our western no-till educator to conduct a series of seminars in the Panhandle region.  A bus tour attendee remarked “The tour was great!  This has to be one of the most impacting agricultural educational experiences available.”

 

BohlkenBig Muddy Creek Watershed Project, Nemaha NRD

A total of 5 partners comprised of the Nebraska Environmental Trust, Nemaha Natural Resources District, Big Muddy Creek Landowners, Nemaha County and USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service worked together to construct 14 structures to control streambed and streambank erosion.  Ultimately these structures will enhance the quality of life of local, rural residents by protecting public infrastructure and utilities, improving water quality, improving ecological diversity and preventing the further loss of agricultural land.

During the early planning stages for this watershed project, NRD board member and chairman of the Big Muddy Creek Watershed Task Force, Mike Speece, stated that uncontrolled flows of Big Muddy Creek are a clear and present danger to the quality of life of the rural residents of Johnson, Nebraska, and all efforts to control the erosive nature of this creek is a must.

Rural residents of Johnson, Nebraska, recognize the significance that the Big Muddy Creek Watershed Project plays in protecting their lives, property and future.

 

burn trainingPrescribed Burn Training Schools, Prescribed Burn Task Force

In 2008 the Nebraska Environmental Trust approved a grant application submitted by the Prescribed Burn Taskforce. The grant project has been instrumental in increasing the capacity of the Taskforce when it comes to education and prescribed burning. So far the grant has enabled the purchase of firefigghting equipment including handtools, communications equipment and truck mounted firefighting equipment.

The Trust grant has helped the Taskforce to conduct four landowner prescribed burn training sessions in nebraska to the benefir of over 100 producers this year.

 

wood chipperWoodwaste/Saw Log Utilization and Red Cedar Management Project, Lower Loup NRD

The Woodwaste/Saw Log Utilization and Red cedar Management Project has been a cooperative effort that included the Lower Loup Natural Resources District and its partners, Nebraska Forest Service, Natural Resources Conservation Service and private landowners. This team offered potential solutions to problems Nebraska landowners are having with the state's growing red cedar tree population. Utilizing Environmental Trust fund grant monies, the NRD was able to purchase equipment (a saw mill, wood chipper and shredder) for demonstration at a series of workshops across the District.