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Commission delays Lake McConaughy Visitor Management Plan

LINCOLN, Neb. – The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission voted to delay consideration of the proposed Lake McConaughy Visitor Management Plan at its meeting Jan. 22 in Lincoln.

Instead, Game and Parks staff will work with a McConaughy-area advisory group to come up with revisions to the plan and then present them at the Commission’s March 20 meeting in Hastings.

Game and Parks has worked with local officials, park visitors and the public on the plan to make Lake McConaughy and Lake Ogallala state recreation areas better, safer and more family-friendly. The plan called for controlled beach access and designated camping to help ensure public safety and address over-crowding and over-burdened infrastructure.

“The issues and challenges identified at Lake McConaughy and Lake Ogallala remain,” Parks Division Administrator Jim Swenson said. “The Commission has been tasked by Keith County representatives to address those issues and challenges. We look forward to working with a local advisory group to gain success in restoring Lake McConaughy and Lake Ogallala to quality and safe recreation environments.”

Hundreds of people attended a Game and Parks informational open house at the Lake McConaughy Visitor and Water Interpretive Center on Jan. 16. The agency also has been accepting and reviewing public comments about the plan.

In other business, the Commission:

— approved a staff recommendation to remove the North American river otter from the state threatened list, add the sicklefin chub to the endangered list, and add the McCown’s longspur and timber rattlesnake to the threatened list. Also included was a provision that makes the taking of timber rattlesnakes lawful if it is done for the immediate protection of the health of humans, livestock or pets.

— approved the following grant awards for the Land and Water Conservation Fund Stateside Assistance Program:

– – City of Ponca, $80,518.50 for the City of Ponca Park Improvement Project;

– – Village of Adams, $396,656 for Adams Park Ballfield Facilities Development;

– – City of Syracuse, $283,387.50 for Syracuse AquaCenter Bathhouse Renovation and Development;

– – City of Scottsbluff, $200,000 for the 23 Club Baseball Park Improvement Project;

– – City South Sioux City, $83,233 for the South Sioux City Scenic Park Aquaplex Splash Pad;

– – City of Kearney, $100,000 for the Yanney Park 8th Street Hike-Bike Bridge.

— approved the following outdoor trail project for federal funding through the Recreational Trails Program: Central Platte Natural Resources District, $249,500 to replace a deteriorated asphalt trail with a 1,658-foot-long, 8-foot-wide concrete recreational trail at the Richard Plautz Crane Viewing Site near Gibbon. Construction also would include a new 1,000-square-yard concrete parking lot and improvements to viewing decks.

— approved the Focus on Education Strategic Plan, which conveys the Commission’s desire to develop a leadership role in ecological, cultural and outdoor recreation education in Nebraska.

— approved the Fisheries Tactical Plan for Urban Fishing and Fish Production Needs, which will address the growing needs of fish hatcheries in the next 5-10 years.

— approved a permanent easement request from the Southern Public Power District to install an overhead power line at Blue Hole Wildlife Management Area in Buffalo County.

The commissioners also heard the following reports:

— an update on the Venture Parks project;

— an update on Farm Bill conservation programs, including a report on the Conservation Reserve Program signup that ends Feb. 28. Farm Bill conservation programs administered by the United States Department of Agriculture are important to Nebraska’s fish and wildlife resources, providing vital funding for private lands conservation in Nebraska;

— an overview of the many agencies the Commission partners with regarding environmental reviews; and

— a presentation on the Trout in the Classroom program, in which 89 Nebraska schools raise trout from eggs.

In addition, division administrators for two new divisions were announced: Lindsay Rogers, Fish and Wildlife Education; and Angie Janda-Craig, Administration.

The commissioners elected their officers for 2020 as follows: Chairman, Dan Kreitman, Wahoo; Vice Chairman, Pat Berggren, Broken Bow; and 2nd Vice Chairman, Rick Brandt, Roca.

About Jerry Kane

Jerry Kane is the news manager with the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. He can be contacted at jerry.kane@nebraska.gov or 402-471-5008.

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