President Obama’s America’s Great Outdoors Initiative came to Nebraska on July 12, when 200 attendees gathered in Grand Island for a listening session. They were joined by Dave White, Chief of the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), and senior representatives of the U.S. Departments of Agriculture (USDA) and the Interior (DOI).
Nebraska residents were given the opportunity to share with members of the Administration what is being done at the local, regional and state levels to connect Nebraskans to the outdoors and to help conserve natural resources.
Prior to the America’s Great Outdoors Initiative listening session, a bus tour visited restored wetlands in the Rainwater Basin complex, including Trumbull Basin and additional sites south of Grand Island.
NRCS Chief White made a major announcement of the funding of five projects totaling $9.8 million that will restore, enhance and protect high-priority wetlands and improve wildlife habitat through the Wetlands Reserve Enhancement Program (WREP). The financial assistance for the multiyear projects will protect and restore 2,440 acres of wetlands and associated habitats in four states, including Nebraska.
Through WREP, the Rainwater Basin complex in south central Nebraska is receiving $750,000 for work on 240 acres this year. This project, sponsored by Pheasants Forever, proposes restoring and protecting wetlands in an active agricultural landscape by allowing center pivots to cross wetlands, ensuring wetlands are compatible with the agriculture production in this region. At the end of three years, 960 acres of wetlands and upland habitats adjacent to, and within, pivot circles will be restored.
A panel of conservation leaders helped guide discussion about collaborative efforts that have protected Nebraska’s natural resources and encouraged Nebraskans to get outside and connect with nature. Breakout sessions were held to gather ideas on what more can be accomplished by identifying what works, tools for success, challenges, and the federal government’s role.
A youth session concluded the day’s events.