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Justin Haag

Justin Haag has served the Commission as a public information officer in the Panhandle since 2013. His duties include serving as regional editor for NEBRASKAland Magazine. Haag was raised in southwestern Nebraska, where he developed a love for fishing, hunting and other outdoor pursuits. After earning a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Chadron State College in 1996, he worked four years as an editor and reporter at newspapers in Chadron and McCook. Prior to joining the Commission in 2013, he worked 12 years as a communicator at Chadron State, serving as the institution’s media and public relations coordinator the last five. He and his wife, Cricket, live in Chadron, and have two children.

Ol’ Rough-legs

The rough-legged hawk may not stand out among raptors in looks, but it lives an interesting life. Perhaps you have seen this species along the road lately, but given its somewhat unassuming appearance, have not given it much thought. The rough-legged hawk, with its mottled brown plumage, blends in well with our landscape during the winter months. The rough-legged hawk is one of those species that logs many miles a couple of times annually. Those fence posts and utility poles …

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Turtles: Slowing Down for Winter

Some of Nebraska’s most common wildlife have the most magnificent survival abilities. A blast of below-zero temperatures got me thinking about a species I often catch sight of while casting a fishing rod over the soft water, but is nowhere to be seen around my holes in the ice. Painted turtles (Chrysemys picta) basking on a partially submerged log is a familiar scene at ponds throughout Nebraska, and much of the United States for that matter, during summer months. It …

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Lake Minatare opening to birdwatchers Dec. 7

MINATARE, Neb. — The public will have a special opportunity for viewing birds during an event at Lake Minatare State Recreation Area on Saturday, Dec. 7. The day marks the only opportunity for the public to access the 2,158-acre reservoir on the North Platte National Wildlife Refuge for its annual closure between Oct. 15 and Jan. 14. Birdwatchers who want to participate may arrive at Scout’s Rest Cabin at the lake’s northwest corner any time from 10 a.m. to noon …

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Wildcat Hills event brings nature to holiday decor

GERING, Neb. — A free workshop at Wildcat Hills Nature Center will help participants use items found in nature to make the holidays more festive. “Nature’s Gifts: Decorations from the Great Outdoors” will be Saturday, Dec. 14, at 10 a.m. MST. Amanda Filipi, Nebraska Game and Parks Commission outdoor education specialist, will provide instruction for creating festive ornaments and crafts from items found in nature. On the list of projects are bird feeders, including those constructed in garland fashion. Some …

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Holiday celebration set at Bowring Ranch

MERRIMAN, Neb. – Tickets are on sale for Christmas at the Bowring, the annual holiday celebration at Bowring Ranch State Historical Park. The event will be Saturday, Dec. 14, at 6 p.m. MST. The celebration will include a rib-eye steak dinner with trimmings, live music by the Twin River Band and door prizes. Tickets, which are $25 each, may be purchased now through Dec. 6 and are sold only in advance. To reserve tickets, call the park’s visitors center at …

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1878 is theme for 25th Fort Robinson Christmas dinner

CRAWFORD, Neb. – Tickets will soon go on sale for the 25th Christmas dinner at Fort Robinson State Park. The event Dec. 7 will take people back to 1878, an important year in the fort’s history. The 200 ticket-holders of the event at the park’s Buffalo Soldiers Barracks will be treated to the same menu as the one of that year, when it was a military post for the U.S. Cavalry. The dinner will include turkey, stuffing, potatoes and gravy, …

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Lessons from Cat Country

Thanks to research in the Pine Ridge, we are gaining knowledge about one of Nebraska’s most criticized, treasured and, of course, misunderstood repatriates – the cougar. Referred to as mountain lion, cougar and several other names, Puma concolor has become one of the most discussed wildlife species in the state. For all of that talking, though, it seems there is always a need to dispel a few myths and provide accurate information to the public regarding the species. Historical accounts …

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Fleeting scenes of fall

Whether it be the first sign of frost or quickly changing explosion of color, autumn brings a sense of urgency to nature photography. With snow in the forecast this week, scenes such as these seem especially fleeting. When fall foliage bursts to the scene, I often find myself driving the Pine Ridge’s West Ash Creek Road. And stopping for a few photos, of course. Towering cottonwoods, such as this one at Fort Robinson State Park, seem to have benefited from …

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So long, summer

I know everyone is excited for fall, but I would be remiss not to post some scenes from late summer. It is always a good work day when I get to wade in the creek. Such was the case last week when I joined Nebraska fisheries biologists as they stocked about 1,000 cutthroat trout in the middle fork of Soldier Creek and the Wood Reserve Ponds. Here are just a few of those fish leaving the net. The fish, which …

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Open house for new stream section is Tuesday

MITCHELL, Neb. — The Dry Spotted Tail Creek partner group is inviting the public to view the newly completed stream section at the Platte River Basin Environments property west of Mitchell. The area will be open from 5:30-7:30 p.m. MDT on Tuesday, Sept. 10. Anyone interested in supporting conservation efforts is encouraged to attend and visit about the project with representatives from PRBE, Trout Unlimited, Ducks Unlimited, Pheasants Forever and the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. The open house is …

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