Game and Parks Hosts Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies Annual Meeting
Game and Parks hosted the 101st annual meeting of the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (AFWA) in Omaha Sept. 11-14. Approximately 600 participants from more than 30 states, as well as Canada, attended the meeting, which featured a variety of special sessions and workshops, networking, a director’s retreat and social events.
The meeting was held at the Hilton Hotel in downtown Omaha, with additional activities scheduled at Platte River State Park and other nearby locations. Commission staff members from every division helped orchestrate the event, and from all indications, the meeting participants enjoyed the activities and their visit to Nebraska. Positive comments, thank you notes and kudos for a job well done were abundant following the event.
“Great fun visiting your state. I must say the “Welcome to Nebraska” party was the best in the 101 year history of the meeting. I loved the archery skeet, and the “green screen” photos of playing cowboy on the back of a fish and chicken were super. I sent it out to all my friends. Plus you never ran out of food, how good is that! Congratulations on hosting a SUPER event. Have a great fall, best afield,” wrote Doug Grann, president and CEO of Wildlife Forever.
At their business meeting on the event’s last day, AFWA members passed – by standing ovation – a resolution congratulating and thanking the Commission for its good work in hosting the event.
“In addition to this resolution, we have received many e-mails and telephone calls congratulating and thanking the Commission for hosting an outstanding conference. It was a great privilege and honor for us to host this important meeting. …it was truly a team effort by the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission staff,” said Rex Amack.
The Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies represents North America’s fish and wildlife agencies to advance sound, science-based management and conservation of fish and wildlife and their habitats in the public interest. View More Photos
Lake Mac Fullfills “Make a Wish” Dream
Instead of Disneyland or Sea World, little Liviana Price went to the beach for her Make A Wish trip. Her parents, Brad and Amy Price of Omaha, chose Lake McConaughy because they know how much their daughter loves the sand there.
“She really likes the beach and the sand,” Amy Price said “It makes her smile.”
Amy said when the Make A Wish Foundation asked to grant Liviana’s “wish,” Amy researched beaches close to Omaha. When searching the computer for “lakes in Nebraska,” the Lake McConaughy State Recreation Area came up and Liviana’s mother realized it would be the perfect spot for Liviana’s trip.
“We had no desire to take her to Disneyland or something similar. She can’t enjoy those places since she can’t even ride the rides. We knew we would not put her on a plane and make her endure a flight to see the beach either, ” Amy said. Liviana has been diagnosed with metachromatic leukodystrophy, a fatal genetic disease. Liviana can no longer walk, sit , stand or speak. Her eyesight is fading, as is her hearing. Liviana is losing the white matter on her brain and her central nervous system is deteriorating. MLD eventually causes paralysis, blindness and seizures, and there is no cure. Liviana is now unable to talk and was recently fitted with a feeding tube.
The family arrived at the lake Aug. 11. “The kids were very excited and we told Liviana every single day she would be going to the beach. As expected, the first day at the water she just melted in my arms as the water hit her feet. She almost fell asleep right there hunched over on my arm,” Price recalls.
Burdette Cooley of Lemoyne, with his son, Jeff, helped organize the family’s stay. The Make A Wish Foundation contacted Jeff Cooley, who volunteered his home to the family for the week. Nebraska Game and Parks officials helped out by providing seclusion for the family by roping off an area of beach for the family’s privacy and donations of the use of a tent and personal watercraft from local businesses, for one week. The family, mom, dad, 3 year-old Liviana, Aria, now 6, Miles, 4, and Giovanni, born in 2010 played on the beach and swam. The family also went on a boat ride and made s’mores.
While Liviana is losing her abilities to do many things, her parents said they know she enjoyed the sand on the shores of Lake McConaughy and being surrounded by her sister, brothers and parents.
Two of Liviana’s siblings are carriers of the gene but not afflicted. The couple’s youngest, Giovanni has also has been diagnosed with MLD.
Although the disease and its affect on their child and their family is always close in mind, for one week, the Prices simply enjoyed the pleasures of being with family on the sandy beaches at Lake Mac.
To read more about Liviana’s condition and the Prices journey, visit Amy’s blog(http://livianasjourney.blogspot.com/)
EDUCATION & OUTREACH
International Students From the Republic of Georgia Visit Heritage Park Complex
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Visiting students from the Republic of Georgia were invited to participate in the great outdoors at Platte River State Parks’ Heritage Park Complex on August 4th. Patrick Cole, Game and Parks budget and fiscal division administrator, arranged the adventure with his friend Dr. Del Harnish, Fulbright Scholar with the University of Nebraska.
The 16 students (ages 13 – 21 years-old), were this year’s participants in an ongoing effort by members of Lincoln’s education community to host Georgian youth, especially students from families that have been displaced as a result of political and military conflict. In the early 1990s, nearly 230,000 people who were ethnically Georgian were driven from the regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia after those regions sought independence from Georgia. Many Georgian families now have lived as internally displaced people for 20 years and struggle to make good lives for themselves. The students were here visiting the United States to learn about democratization and our democratic institutions especially those at the state and local level so they can have a conception/point of reference as they enter adulthood about what it means to be an active involved citizen in a democracy. During their visit they met with the Lt. Governor, the Mayor of Lincoln and other local dignitaries.
The outing to Platte River State Park was a highlight of their two week trip to Lincoln. Cole and Harnish took the students to the park to experience shooting .22 rifles, and to provide them with the opportunity to participate in archery and fishing. It was a unique “international relations’ experience for all including out outdoor skills instructors. For some of the students it was the first time they had shot a rifle, or bow and fished with a fishing pole or caught a fish. While a first-in-a-lifetime moment for a day, some no doubt returned to Georgia with desires to get involved in the sports. One of the youngest said he was anxious to buy a bow when he returned home.
Harnish, who teaches educators at the University of Nebraska, and the Georgian students were especially impressed with our facilities and the skill and professionalism each of our dedicated staff exhibited. The students were also impressed with the Lodge at the park and said, ” The buffalo burgers were outstanding.”
Waverly Man Wins Bighorn Sheep Lottery Permit
Tyson Ritz of Waverly is an avid deer hunter. Now he is about to become a bighorn sheep hunter.
Ritz, 28, won the bighorn sheep lottery permit on Aug. 30. Ritz’s entry was drawn during a meeting of the Nebraska Game and Parks Commissioners in McCook by Lt. Governor Rick Sheehy.
Ritz has focused his hunting on deer, but he has entered the bighorn lottery the past four years. He was “shocked” to learn he had won the bighorn permit. “I had no intention that I’d win this,” he said. “It’s pretty crazy. I understand it is real slim odds. I’ve already told a few people and they’re pretty jealous.”
The permit is valid for one bighorn during the season, Nov. 29-Dec. 22.
Ritz likely will be hunting bighorns from the Fort Robinson herd, located on public land at Fort Robinson State Park in northwest Nebraska. “That’s where we have the oldest sheep and the biggest rams,” said Kit Hams, Game and Parks’ big game program manager.
Each of 1,762 applicants paid $25 to enter the lottery. Revenue goes toward the state’s bighorn sheep management program. To view some spectacular photos of bighorn sheep take a look at Todd Nordeen’s Panhandle Collection on the Game and Parks Flickr site.
The 7th Annual Missouri River Outdoor Expo at Ponca State Park Draws Record Setting Crowd
The 7th Annual Missouri River Outdoor Expo at Ponca State Park was held Sept. 16-19. While participants missed the old river front location, the attendance was up from last year. The venue for some of the activities had to be moved up from the river due to earlier flooding. Change from two locations (the river front and primary park area) to one seemed to be well received overall. The crowd response was overwhelmingly positive as they spent less time shuttling between locations and more time experiencing activities.
The objectives of this event are many, but focus primarily upon introducing or reacquainting participants with those services or programs sponsored by the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission and other outdoors partners. Fostering the legacy and heritage associated with hunting, fishing, and outdoor recreation traditions, which have influenced generations of Nebraskans is also an important objective. More than 42,000 participants drove or walked through the gates on the public days compared to 22,000 last year, and those numbers represent the second best attendance since 2009 when a recorded 45,000 people attended the event.
On September 16th the park hosted an invitational school event with more than 750 (compared to last years 635) fifth graders from 12 area schools. Weather was nearly perfect for this event with temperatures at a low of 70 degrees and light winds. Students could choose between 35 different hands-on environmental and outdoor education programs.
NGPC staff from all divisions and more than 900 volunteers contributed their talents and time serving as everything from shuttle guides and drivers to archery, shotgun, fishing, and kayaking instructors. The event also had more than 89 vendors in addition to 18 food vendors and seven farmer’s market and handcrafted item vendors.
With more than 70 hands on activities available to choose from, the most popular feature for this year’s event included Matt Stutzman armless archer who set a Guinness record with his unique style of archery. The Wild Game Cook off was a favorite of Expo attendees as well. Public participation in tasting and voting was a big hit.
Archery shooter Frank Addington Jr. known as the “Aspirin Buster” did five shows throughout the weekend. Other popular new activities for this year’s event included, bow fishing, rock climbing wall, deer processing, and wild game cooking.
Side Sonar Training Lab Held at Wildwood Lake
On Aug. 27 law enforcement hosted a side sonar training “lab” at Wildwood Lake in Lancaster County. The training included more than 30 people from law enforcement officers and rescue personnel primarily from the Lancaster County area, however, Officers and other rescue personnel from the northeast portion of the state also attended for this specialized training.
Conservation officers and Park employees from Game and Parks, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and rescue personnel from Lincoln Fire, Raymond Fire, Malcolm Fire and Cedar County EMS attended the informational session. Side Sonar is a relatively new technology being used for search and rescue and body recovery efforts during boating accidents, drownings and missing persons situations. Lancaster County Emergency Management Service has recently purchased two portable side scan sonar units to be used by the Game and Parks Law Enforcement Division and Lincoln Fire and Rescue. These units represent an unfamiliar technology to many of the personnel that will be using them. Learning the technology is critical to these teams. The Side Sonar units have proven to be very effective in the past during search efforts. Getting the opportunity for hands-on training with them is important in order to learn what to look for, the best settings to be used on the equipment, where they need to be placed on a search boat and other details. In addition, Bob Walla, a representative with Hummingbird (maker of the side sonar units), was on hand to assist in training with the new units, trouble shooting solutions, and demonstration of the units to all that requested it.
After a short demonstration of the unit and its different utilization modes, a live training enactment took place. Raymond Fire dive team had divers submerge and lay on the bottom of the lake, allowing the personnel using the side sonar units from boats above to get actual “footage” of what they were viewing/graphing. Two life-size mannequins were submerged in different locations around the lake to also provide opportunities for the teams to get practice situations. The overall response to the training was very receptive and well received and all agreed the actual hands on training was necessary to feel comfortable with the new technology available to us and proved to be very beneficial. View More Photos
Casting for Recovery Retreat Held in Valentine
Fisheries hosted a Casting for Recovery retreat Sept 16-18 at the Prairie Club Golf Course and Snake River Falls. Casting for Recovery is a national organization that serves women who have or have had breast cancer. This was the first year that a retreat was held in Nebraska. A group of 14 women were selected to attend the free weekend in Valentine. During the retreat, the women learned about fly fishing gear, fly fishing equipment, how to tie knots, how to cast, how to fly fish and at the end of the weekend all had the opportunity to go fishing with a fly fishing mentor. A big part of the retreat is fly fishing but a larger focus is on physical and emotional recovery. There are also sessions focusing on medicals issues and emotional issues, which are led by medical professionals.
The idea for the program came from an oncologist and a fly fisherman who realized women struggling with cancer need support and that the action of casting a fly was good physical therapy. Game and Parks staff member Andrea Faas helped with the event. “I was asked to be one of the staff that works with the women all weekend and helps prepare them for fly fishing, but I also learned so much about breast cancer the disease, treatment and challenges that persist after treatment,” Faas said. Many volunteer fly fishers came out to the Snake River to assist the women in their fly fishing and several caught trout.
Fisheries Section Meetings
The Fisheries Management and Research Section held annual meeting at the Calamus Fish Hatchery to discuss their programs, projects and activities and make plans for the upcoming year and beyond. Topics addressed at the Management Section meeting included agency restructuring, the Aquatic Invasive Species Program, the Aquatic Habitat Program, the status of electrofishing boats, the Open Fields and Water and PATH programs, fish stocking issues, creel surveys, budget issues, the 2011 flood, sampling channel catfish populations with hoop nets, and the Fish Community Assessment manual.
At the Research Section meeting, agency staff discussed work being done on the Platte, Niobrara River, and Missouri rivers, other rivers and streams, irrigation reservoirs, on Plains topminnows, and on fisheries databases. University professors discussed research being conducted on Sandhill Lakes (South Dakota State University), I-80 lakes (UNK), and creel surveys and walleye and white bass recruitment (UNL).
At the Management Section meeting, Director Amack, Deputy Director Douglas, and Commissioners Berggren and Jensen enjoyed some white bass fishing with Fisheries Division staff after hours.
Five Decade Project Showcased – Maple Creek Recreation Area
The Leigh Dam recreation area and reservoir will provide the citizens of northeast Nebraska with an excellent facility to enjoy activities such as motor boating, fishing, hiking, wildlife watching, and the many other types of recreation. Motorboat Access Funds were used to help develop the reservoir. The project will provide flood protection down the West Form of Maple Creek , as well as upland and wetland wildlife habitat.
Lower Elkhorn NRD funded 45 percent of the project’s cost, with 55 percent coming from Nebraska Resources Development Fund — not including $500,000 from the state’s Motor Boat Access Fund and $176,000 from the Nebraska Department of Roads.
Approximately $900,000 worth of work and materials have gone into creating fishery habitat and top of the line access for fishermen. These funds are part of the Sport Fish Restoration Fund Program. This project was built with cooperation between the Lower Elkhorn Natural Resource District, http://www.lenrd.org/and the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. The receation area will be owned and operated by the Lower Elkhorn NRD, and Game and Parks helped with the funding and design of the reservoir and fishery and worked toward the incorporation of many features that will result in better water quality, better habitat conditions and ultimately better fishing for a longer period of time. Campgrounds include 50 recreational vehicle pads with electrical hook-ups, water hydrants, restrooms, an area for tent camping, playground and a shower house.
Bird Banding Scheduled for Ak-Sar-Ben Aquarium
The Ak-Sar-Ben Aquariumwill host free bird-banding workshops Oct. 8, Nov. 5 and Dec. 3. Rick Schmid and Betty Grenon of the Fontenelle Nature Association will capture and release many of the state’s songbirds. Participants will learn details about the birds, including field identification and migration patterns.
The workshops are from 9-11 a.m. The aquarium is located in Schramm Park State Recreation Area south of Gretna on Nebraska Highway 31. For more information, call the aquarium at 402-332-3901.
Game and Parks Offers Special Youth Hunts at Five WMAs
Special youth pheasant hunts are scheduled for five wildlife management areas (WMA) in October.
The intent of the special hunts is to increase youth participation in upland game hunting through increased success. Rooster pheasants will be released at all designated special hunt sites before the youth season.
Special regulations will be in effect for the hunts on Pressey (Custer County), Sherman Reservoir (Sherman County), Oak Valley (Madison County), Branched Oak (Lancaster County) and Twin Oaks (Johnson County) WMAs during the Oct. 22-23 statewide youth pheasant, quail and partridge season.
Special hunt regulations, which will be posted at each site and apply to all portions of the designated areas normally open to public hunting, include:
— limiting adult mentors to one per youth.
To date Game and Parks’ hunter education program has orchestrated 215 total events.
Instructors have trained 3,288 students, 91 apprentice instructors.
Of those instructors trained in the past year, 28 have gone on to be certified .
Bow – 63 events have certified 762 students. These events were offered by 175 volunteer instructors who have donated 1,843 hours valued at $38,703. There have been 50 classes, 13 field days. 44 of the 63 events have offered live fire.
Firearm – 152 total events have certified 2526 students. These events were offered by 443 volunteer instructors who have donated 5,189 hours valued at $108,969. There have been 135 classes, 17 field days. 56 of the 152 events have offered live fire.
AUGUST 2011 SERVICE AWARDS
Carly Salak, Personnel, 8-6-11
Nikolaus Johanson, Parks, 8-31-11
James Swenson, Parks, 8-16-11
Alette Hain, Information & Education, 8-4-11
SEPTEMBER 2011 SERVICE AWARDS
Donna Robinson, Information & Education, 9-4-11
Dale Davis, Law Enforcement, 9-22-11
Virlyn Bolte, Engineering, 9-24-11
Brett Brunken, Fisheries, 9-16-11
JoAnn Goeglein, Parks, 9-24-11
Bill Oligmueller Lake McConaughy’s new park superintendent
Congratulations to Bill Oligmueller for his new role as Lake McConaughy’s new park superintendent. Bill started with the Game and Parks as a seasonal employee at Ponca State Park. Bill has worked as a park superintendent at Mahoney State Park for the past 10 years.
Bill will begin his new position at Lake McConaughy on October 1st.
Blume to Retire from Game and Parks
Blume, a 39-year veteran of the agency, will retire Oct. 14. He started at Game and Parks as a conservation officer in 1973.
“Ted has had a distinguished career at Game and Parks,” agency Director Rex Amack said. “He was highly respected for his fairness and adherence to facts.”
Craig Stover, law enforcement assistant administrator, will assume the interim administrator position effective Oct. 15. The commissioners will be meeting on Oct. 27 at Fort Robinson SP, and will discuss future plans for the vacancy he leaves.
October Outdoor Calendar
Oct. 1 – October Antlerless deer hunting season opens
Oct. 1 – Crow hunting season opens
Oct. 1 – Firearm hunter education field day, Gering
Oct. 1-2 – Living History Weekend, Fort Atkinson State Historical Park (SHP)
Oct. 1-2 – Youth waterfowl hunting season
Oct. 1-2 – Heritage Farm Weekend, Ponca State Park (SP)
Oct. 1-2 – Autumn Harvest Art Show, Eugene T. Mahoney SP
Oct. 1-2 – Firearm hunter education class, Beatrice
Oct. 1-2 – Firearm hunter education class, Lincoln
Oct. 1-2 – Firearm hunter education class, Bassett
Oct. 1-2 – Firearm hunter education class, Crofton
Oct. 1-2 – Firearm hunter education class, Thedford
Oct. 1, 4, 6, 8 – Firearm hunter education class, Clay Center
Oct. 1-31 – Paddlefish snagging season
Oct. 2 – Muzzleloader pronghorn antelope hunting season closes
Oct. 2 – Firearm hunter education field day, Ogallala
Oct. 2 – Living History, Arbor Lodge SHP
Oct. 3 – Haunted Hollow, hayrack ride tickets available, Indian Cave SP
Oct. 3-5, 10-11 – Firearm hunter education class, Wynot
Oct. 3-4, 6, 10-11 – Firearm hunter education class, Scottsbluff
Oct. 3, 6, 8 – Firearm hunter education class, Sargent
Oct. 4, 6, 11, 13 – Firearm hunter education class, North Loup
Oct. 8 – Hallowfest, hayrack rides, Halloween campground decorating contest, Ponca SP
Oct. 8 – Haunted Hollow, hayrack rides, Halloween campground decorating contest, Indian Cave SP
Oct. 8 – Bird-banding workshop, Ak-Sar-Ben Aquarium
Oct. 8 – Firearm pronghorn antelope hunting season opens
Oct. 8 – October late firearm pronghorn antelope hunting season opens
Oct. 8 – Light goose hunting season opens (first segment)
Oct. 8 – White-fronted goose hunting season opens (first segment)
Oct. 8 – Duck and coot hunting seasons open in Low Plains Early unit (first segment)
Oct. 8 – Duck and coot hunting seasons open in High Plains unit
Oct. 8 – Dark goose hunting season opens in North Central unit
Oct. 8-9 – Firearm hunter education class, North Bend
Oct. 8-16, Oct. 22-Jan. 25 – Dark goose hunting season in East unit
Oct. 9 – Living History, Arbor Lodge SHP
Oct. 9, 16, 23 – Firearm hunter education class, Columbus
Oct. 10 – Columbus Day, all Game and Parks offices closed
Oct. 10, 13, 17 – Firearm hunter education class, Randolph
Oct. 11, 13, 18, 20 – Firearm hunter education class, Battle Creek
Oct. 12-14 – Firearm hunter education class, Litchfield
Oct. 12-13, 18, 20 – Firearm hunter education class, Lincoln
Oct. 14 – Hayrack rides, Indian Cave SP
Oct. 15 – Hallowfest, hayrack rides, Halloween campground decorating contest, Ponca SP
Oct. 15 – Haunted Hollow, hayrack rides, Halloween campground decorating contest, Indian Cave SP
Oct. 15 – Muzzleloader Sight-in and Family Rendezvous, Outdoor Heritage Education Complex, Platte River SP
Oct. 15 – Becoming an Outdoors-Family Backyard Camping, Pioneers Park Nature Center, Lincoln
Oct. 15-16 – Firearm hunter education class, Hastings
Oct. 15-16 – Living History Weekend, Fort Hartsuff SHP
Oct. 15-16, Oct. 22-Jan. 1 – Duck and coot hunting seasons in Low Plains Late unit
Oct. 16 – Living History, Arbor Lodge SHP
Oct. 17-18, 20 – Firearm hunter education class, Kearney
Oct. 17-18, 20 – Firearm hunter education class, Central City
Oct. 17-18, 20, 22 – Firearm hunter education class, Minden
Oct. 18-20 – Firearm hunter education class, Bennett
Oct. 21-23 – Holiday Craft Show, Eugene T. Mahoney SP
Oct. 21 – Hayrack rides, Indian Cave SP
Oct. 22 – Haunted Hollow, hayrack rides, Halloween campground decorating contest, Indian Cave SP
Oct. 22-23 – Youth pheasant, quail and partridge hunting seasons
Oct. 23 – Firearm pronghorn antelope hunting season closes
Oct. 23 – Bull elk hunting season closes
Oct. 23 – Antlerless elk hunting season closes (first segment)
Oct. 24 – Dark goose hunting season opens in Platte River and Niobrara units
Oct. 24, 27, 28-29 – Firearm hunter education class, Norfolk
Oct. 27 – Nebraska Game and Parks Commissioners meeting, Fort Robinson SP
Oct. 29 – Pheasant, quail and partridge hunting seasons open
Oct. 29 – Fall Festival, Wildcat Hills Nature Center
Oct. 30 – Dove hunting season closes
Oct. 31 – Eurasian collared-dove hunting season opens
Oct. 31 – Hunt-only raccoon and Virginia opossum seasons close