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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.

Junior Explorers invited to get their badge at Wildcat Hills

Junior Explorer Book and Badge

GERING, Neb. — Children have long enjoyed exploring nature at Wildcat Hills State Recreation Area, whether by hiking the trails of the 1,000-plus-acre park or by viewing the interactive displays of its Nature Center. Now there is a new program to guide their exploration and make it official. This month, on Free Park Entry and Fishing Day on May 19, the Nature Center will begin awarding badges and certificates to children who complete its new Junior Explorer program. The program …

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Grassland tribute

Supermoon over Sugarloaf Butte

In the May issue of NEBRASKAland Magazine, you will find a story and photos about one of my favorite places in the Panhandle – an area that might sometimes be overshadowed by its neighbor. The Oglala Grassland is a region in northern Dawes and Sioux counties that borders Nebraska’s stunning Pine Ridge and the South Dakota border. The region is designated one of the Panhandle’s 11 designated biologically unique landscapes in the Natural Legacy Project – the state’s wildlife action …

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Fort Robinson pond project bringing excitement

Among the Panhandle’s best fishing assets are the opportunities in and around Fort Robinson State Park near Crawford. With the 22,000-acre park’s 11 fishponds and coldwater streams in and near there, anglers can seek everything from warm water species such as largemouth bass, catfish and crappie to all species of trout found in Nebraska. Furthermore, the buttes and pine-studded bluffs provide a beautiful scenic backdrop for photos of your catch. As good as the fishing may be, it is sure …

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Whitney Lake briefly closing to boating Sunday

CRAWFORD, Neb. – The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission will close Whitney Lake Wildlife Management Area to boats and other watercraft during a 3½-hour training exercise of the Nebraska Wildland Fire Academy on Sunday, April 22. As part of the exercise, firefighters will use a helicopter with a hanging bucket to pick up water from the lake between 9 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. The Commission is closing the lake during that time to ensure public safety. Although boating will not …

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Teeming with Turkeys

Merriam's Wild Turkey

Nebraskans have become accustomed to seeing wild turkeys from border to border but it has not always been that way. When I was growing up in southwestern Nebraska in the 1970s and ‘80s, it was much more of a rarity to see them. Similar to many wildlife species, wild turkeys are native to Nebraska but factors related to Euro-American settlement wiped them out of the state in the early 1900s. Along with a lot of other wildlife, though, turkeys have …

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The dance of the sharptail

Sharp-tailed grouse

If you travel far at all on many of our dirt roads, you have a good chance of a seeing one or more sharp-tailed grouse – that is, if you can pick them out with their brown, black and buff camouflaged bodies. Sharptails, popular game birds in Nebraska, are at home on much our landscape, enjoying a mix of open grassland with some trees and shrubs. This is certainly the time of year that grouse are most fun to watch. …

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Pollinators all the buzz at Wildcat Hills

Bumblebee and soldier beetle on aster.

GERING, Neb. — The Wildcat Hills Nature Center south of Gering will be buzzing about pollinators this weekend. “Powerful Pollinators,” the latest event in the Wildcat Weekends series, will be at 10 a.m. Saturday, April 14, and is open to the public free of charge. Amanda Filipi, Commission outdoor education specialist, said she will tell attendees about the importance of pollinators, which experts say are responsible in the creation of one-third of the food humans eat and provide many other …

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Game and Parks provides updates on cougar research and management

GERING, Neb. – The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission delivered an update of its cougar research and newly approved management plan for the species to Panhandle residents this week. The information was delivered during public meetings in Gering on Wednesday, April 4, and Chadron on Tuesday, April 3. The meetings featured a presentation by Sam Wilson, Commission carnivore and furbearer program manager, and addressed questions about the big cats, commonly referred to as mountain lions or pumas. Wilson said cougars …

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Battling the invasives

Phragmites

Those of you who have been to Smith Lake Wildlife Management Area south of Rushville lately have surely noticed the signs warning you about an invader that has taken up residence in the water. For those of you who have not, no, the Walgren Lake Monster of local legend has not moved east — as far as we know. The culprit is curly leaf pondweed – a plant that forms dense stands over large areas, crowding out other species, restricting …

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Nebraska Game and Parks to host public meetings about mountain lions

LINCOLN, Neb. – The public is encouraged to attend one of four upcoming informational meetings about mountain lions in Nebraska. The meetings are hosted by the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. The meetings will include an overview of what the Commission knows about mountain lions in the state. Topics will include an update on research and details of the new mountain lion management plan. Staff then will receive feedback and answer questions. All meetings will be from 7 p.m. to …

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