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justin haag

Justin Haag serves the Panhandle as a public information officer for the Commission, also 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 enjoy introducing their two children to the many outdoor recreational opportunities of the Pine Ridge region.

Grand opening set for Wildcat Hills Nature Center and Shooting Complex

The newly expanded and renovated Wildcat Hills Nature Center

GERING, Neb. — The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission is inviting the public to celebrate the completed construction at the Wildcat Hills Nature Center and Shooting Complex during a grand opening Saturday, June 24, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. The festivities will begin just south of the nature center with remarks and a ribbon cutting by Commission officials and partners involved with the two projects. A free hot dog lunch will be available while supplies last, and guided tours and other activities …

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Chadron State Park celebrating 96th anniversary

CHADRON, Neb. — Chadron State Park will again celebrate its distinction as Nebraska’s first state park with its 96th anniversary Saturday, June 10. Activities will take place at various locations throughout the park beginning at 9 a.m. At the park’s group meeting facility, visitors can dine on a lunch of bison sloppy joes or hot dogs for 96 cents each – a price that goes up a penny a year to reflect the park’s age. The band Cheap Date will …

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Fisheries work by horse and mule

Packhorse along Soldier Creek

Sometimes, if you want to get where the fish are, you have to go where other people are not. Such was the case for fisheries biologists in the Pine Ridge last week, as they recruited the help of a Game and Parks Commissioner, a Wyoming outfitter, and six four-legged friends to study one of Nebraska’s most remote public fishing areas. With the help of horses and mules owned by Commissioner Rick Brandt of Roca and outfitter Casey Cary of Powell, …

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Incentives available for landowners to improve pheasant habitat, hunting access

CHADRON, Neb. – The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission is urging Panhandle landowners to enroll in programs to improve habitat for upland game birds and other wildlife while providing public hunting access. The programs are key components of the Commission’s Berggren Plan, a five-year initiative for improving pheasant hunting in Nebraska. “These programs not only provide incredible conservation benefits, but also help families get into the field to enjoy the state’s hunting heritage,” said Matt Steffl, the Commission’s northwest district …

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Disc golfers to compete in 3-disc challenge at Chadron State Park

Disc golf player

CHADRON – As many as 45 disc golfers are expected to compete Saturday, May 27, in the first Chadron State Park Gateway 3-disc Challenge, a tournament set at the park’s popular course which was recently expanded from nine to 18 holes with many new baskets and the addition of concrete tee boxes. Tournament organizer Jesse Ottman of Alliance said 33 players had signed up by Monday morning, already exceeding his expectations for turnout. He said many players are bringing campers …

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Panhandle parks celebrating Free Entry Day

CHADRON – Three Nebraska Game and Parks Commission attractions in the Panhandle are planning special activities for Free Park Entry and Fishing Day on Saturday, May 20. Free Park Entry and Fishing Day is an annual event in which the Commission provides an opportunity for people to experience the state’s diverse park areas and fishing resources free of charge. Following is a list of special activities. Chadron State Park near Chadron — The Bird Conservancy of the Rockies and the …

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This one’s for the birds

Black-crowned night heron

I probably owe my job to birds as much as anything. Prior to my NEBRASKAland days, just after getting my student loans paid off, I bought a 100-500mm telephoto zoom lens and set out on the back roads of the Pine Ridge region in search of animals to photograph. Loving both the outdoors and camerawork, wildlife photography just seemed natural, so to speak. As I launched my new pastime, I was excited to get images of the charismatic mammals of …

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Photographing wildlife … from millions of years ago

Saber-toothed cats, by Jan Vriesen

When out and about capturing photos and stories for NEBRASKAland and other Commission materials, my mind frequently wanders to what the region we now know as Nebraska’s Panhandle looked like long ago. While at Fort Robinson State Park, I cannot help but think about how it must have appeared as an active military post in the 1800s — lively with U.S. Cavalry soldiers instead of today’s tourists. A drive through the ghost town of Orella on the serene and scenic …

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Required boating safety courses offered across Nebraska

LINCOLN, Neb. — With spring fishing ramping up and summer approaching, the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission is reminding water lovers to be mindful of the state’s education requirements for boating. Nebraska law requires any motorboat operator, including drivers of personal watercraft such as Jet Skis, born after Dec. 31, 1985, to complete one of the two types of boating safety courses and be in possession of a course certificate. Operators must be at least 14 years old to drive …

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Wildcat Weekends beginning in newly renovated, expanded facility

GERING, Neb. – The newly expanded and renovated Wildcat Hills Nature Center at Wildcat Hills State Recreation Area is set to kick off its annual series of Wildcat Weekends events this weekend. The first event, which will pay tribute to Nebraska’s sesquicentennial, will be Saturday, April 8, at 9 a.m. Titled “Happy Birthday, Nebraska,” the event will feature a variety of activities, information and snacks to honor 150 years of statehood. “We can’t wait to offer these programs in our …

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