Outdoor notes: Niobrara and Missouri Rivers to be featured on 2019 Forever stamps

Outdoor notes: Niobrara and Missouri Rivers to be featured on 2019 Forever stamps
The Niobrara and Missouri Rivers are among a dozen chosen for the “Wild and Scenic Rivers” collection, available in 2019. U.S. POSTAL SERVICE

LINCOLN, Neb – Additional rainbow trout have been stocked by the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission in three eastern Nebraska lakes to enhance winter fishing opportunities.

Standing Bear Lake in Omaha was stocked with 7,500 trout on Dec. 17. Holmes Lake in Lincoln and CenturyLink Lake at Eugene T. Mahoney State Park near Ashland were stocked with 3,000 and 3,500 trout, respectively, on Dec. 18.

Game and Parks considered the ice on all three lakes to be unsafe at the time of stocking. Game and Parks recommends the minimum ice thickness for supporting one person be at least 4 inches of clear, solid ice.

Visit OutdoorNebraska.org for more information about fishing or to buy 2019 permits.

Niobrara and Missouri Rivers to be featured on 2019 Forever stamps

Two Nebraska rivers will be featured on 2019 Forever stamps issued by the U.S. Postal Service in the new year.

The Niobrara and Missouri Rivers are among a dozen chosen for the Wild and Scenic Rivers collection. Segments of both rivers near the state’s northern border are protected in a natural state by the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act of 1968.

Protected segments of the Niobrara and Missouri Rivers stretch a combined 197 miles in the state of Nebraska.

“This issuance celebrates Wild and Scenic Rivers — exceptional American streams that run freely through natural landscapes without man-made alterations,” the U.S. Postal Service said in a statement. “The pane of a dozen different designs features photographs that represent the more than 200 rivers or river segments designated within the Wild and Scenic Rivers System.”

Photographer Michael Melford captured the stamp photograph of the Niobrara River, while Bob Wick of the Bureau of Land Management photographed the upper Missouri River in Montana, near the Hole in the Rock landmark.

“(It was) taken on a chilly September morning as the mist was rising off the water,” Wick said.

Wick deferred to Capt. Meriwether Lewis when describing that segment of the river.

“The hills and river Clifts (sic) which we passed today exhibit a most romantic appearance,” Lewis wrote in his journal, “… seens (sic) of visionary inchantment (sic).”

The Postal Service has not yet announced when the stamps will go on sale.

In addition to the Niobrara and Missouri, the collection includes the Merced, Owyhee, Koyukuk, Snake, Flathead, Skagit, Deschutes, Tlikakila, Ontonagon and Clarion Rivers.

For a full list of 2019 Forever stamp releases, visit usps.com.

HHH to accept additional deer; fund contributions greatly needed

LINCOLN, Neb. – Nebraska’s Hunters Helping the Hungry program, which provides ground venison to Nebraskans in need, will be able to accept an additional 100 deer thanks to several generous donations.

Monetary contributions by the Nebraska Game and Parks Commissioners will allow hunters and processors to make an additional 4,500 pounds of venison available for distribution to food pantries and other programs that provide food to those in need.

The following processors still are accepting deer donations: Steakmaster Inc., in Elwood, B.I.G. Meats and Stoysich House of Sausage in Omaha, Harlan County Meat Processors in Orleans, and Kelley’s Custom Pack in North Platte.

“We’re grateful to our commissioners for recognizing the good work this program does and helping our hunters and processors feed even more families,” Game and Parks Director Jim Douglas said.

The 2018 commissioners, who serve without pay to fulfill Game and Parks’ mission, are: Dan Kreitman of Wahoo, Dick Bell of Omaha, Jim Ernst of Columbus, Norris Marshall of Kearney, Robert Allen of Eustis, Pat Berggren of Broken Bow, Doug Zingula of Sidney, Rick Brandt of Roca, and Scott Cassels of Omaha.

The Hunters Helping the Hungry program is funded solely by voluntary tax deductible cash contributions and no tax dollars or permit fees are used. HHH funds for next year remain very low. To make a donation to support the HHH program, visit outdoornebraska.gov/HHH.

New Farm Bill is good news for conservation in Nebraska

LINCOLN, Neb. – The Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018, more widely known as the Farm Bill, will increase overall funding for conservation programs in Nebraska.

“In Nebraska, almost all wildlife habitat – and therefore almost all habitat improvement work – is located on privately owned lands,” said Jim Douglas, director of the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. “The Agricultural Improvement Act will help us do even more work with landowners, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service and Farm Service Agency, and our partner organizations to provide habitat essential for maintaining healthy wildlife populations in Nebraska.”

The act, which was passed by Congress earlier this month and was signed by President Donald Trump on Dec. 20, includes the following provisions that will help Game and Parks and partner organizations implement programs working with USDA and private landowners to benefit wildlife conservation:

— Increases the cap for the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) from 24 million to 27 million acres nationwide. The Conservation Reserve Program pays landowners in exchange for planting perennial cover on environmentally sensitive cropland. Pheasants, quail, deer, wild turkey, grassland songbirds and pollinators all rely on the valuable grassland habitat that the CRP ensures remains part of the Nebraska landscape.

— Increases funding for the Voluntary Public Access-Habitat Incentives Program from $40 million to $50 million. The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission has used these funds in the past to increase hunting and fishing access on privately owned lands through its Open Fields and Waters Program. During the 2018-19 hunting seasons, more than 317,000 acres of private lands – an all-time record — were enrolled in Open Fields and Waters, providing access for hunters, trappers and anglers across the state.

— Increases the percentage of Environmental Quality Incentives Program funds spent on wildlife-related habitat practices, such as red cedar removal, prescribed fire and stream restoration.

— Increases funding for the Agricultural Conservation Easements Program to $450 million a year. In Nebraska, this program has helped protect more than 80,000 acres of wetlands and other land from development.

— Provides $1.5 billion over five years to the Regional Conservation Partnership Program. Game and Parks, USDA and our conservation partners secured more than $1.8 million for targeted grassland management, cover crop initiatives, wetland conservation and more working with Nebraska landowners.

“This Farm Bill is extremely important for conservation,” Douglas said. “It provides much needed resources and policy improvements for private agricultural producers that are also a good fit with fish, wildlife, soil, and water conservation. We greatly appreciate the many long hours and deep dedication exhibited by our Members of Congress, their staffs, and the conservation organizations that helped make this Farm Bill a reality.”

For more information on CRP and other conservation programs for landowners in Nebraska, visit http://outdoornebraska.gov/landownerhabitatprograms.

Schilling WMA temporarily closed to vehicles because of thawing

LINCOLN, Neb. – Schilling Wildlife Management Area (WMA) in Cass County is closed temporarily to vehicle traffic because of soft ground caused by thawing.

Closure will take place on a day-by-day basis until road conditions improve. Call the WMA at 402-296-0041 for more information or an updated recording on vehicle access.

The WMA will remain open for walk-in access from the gate.

More than 15 state park areas to hold guided hikes on New Year’s Day

LINCOLN, Neb. – Each with a unique experience to offer, more than 15 Nebraska state park areas will offer guided hikes to visitors on New Year’s Day.

Part of a larger effort of the America’s State Parks alliance, First Day Hikes are a great way to get outside, enjoy nature, exercise and enjoy time with friends and family. The hikes are 1-3 miles with varying degrees of difficulty.

Participants are encouraged to dress appropriately for the weather and bring drinking water and snacks. Pets are welcome on most of the hikes, but must be on a leash no more than 6 feet long. The hikes are designed to be family-friendly, but some may be challenging especially for small children and people pushing strollers.

More Nebraska state parks are offering First Day Hikes than ever before, giving those interested in attending a range of options and unique settings to choose from. Hiking opportunities include:

— Fort Hartsuff State Historical Park; Burwell; Jan. 1, 2019; 10 a.m. Fort Hartsuff once stood as a buffer between settlers and Native Americans, and is typical of Plains infantry outposts. Because the main fort buildings were constructed of a lime/concrete mixture, many have survived. Go on a one-mile history hike at Fort Hartsuff to see it all, with hot chocolate and coffee to follow.

— Lake Ogallala State Recreation Area; Ogallala; Jan. 1, 2019; 8 a.m. The one-mile hike at Lake Ogallala takes place during the peak of bald eagle viewing season, with the chance to see over 100 bald eagles.

— Mormon Island State Recreation Area; Doniphan; Dec. 31, 2018-Jan. 1, 2019; 11 p.m.-1 a.m.: The Full Moon Celebration hike includes a bonfire and other activities, and will take place at midnight to celebrate the kick-off of the New Year beneath a full moon. Hikers can enjoy the sounds of nature at night: owls hooting, deer crunching through the snow, and the slushy river flowing.

— Platte River State Park; Louisville; Jan. 1, 2019; 9 a.m.: Hikers at Platte River State Park will ring in the new year with bird watching as well as hiking. Visitors can climb the Lincoln Journal Star Tower and enjoy birdwatching along the Stone Creek trail by the park’s iconic waterfall.

— Ponca State Park; Ponca; Jan. 1, 2019; 2 p.m.: Bigley’s Ravine Trail takes visitors through the oak woodland of Ponca State Park. Hikers will find themselves surrounded by oak, hackberry and ironwood trees as they catch glimpses of the Missouri River at the trail’s highest points.

For complete details on these events, as well as information about the many other hikes available, visit Calendar.Outdoornebraska.gov.

Vehicles entering the parks must have a 2019 park entry permit, available for purchase online at OutdoorNebraska.org or at permit vendors and Game and Parks district offices across the state.