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Panhandle Passages with Justin Haag – Getting My Feet on the Ground

NGPC Policy Manual
A little light reading from last week.

Getting my feet on the ground has always been important to me. Many of my most enjoyable experiences begin by stretching my legs over Nebraska’s magnificent landscape, whether I’m hiking the trails of Chadron State Park, launching my kayak for an afternoon of fishing at Carter P. Johnson Lake, flushing a rooster pheasant in Sheridan County, or wedging sand between my toes at Bridgeport State Recreation Area.

Last week, however, I worked at getting my feet on the ground in the more hackneyed sense of the phrase. I was at the Nebraska Game and Parks headquarters in Lincoln participating in the five-day orientation for my new job … “getting my feet on the ground.” For those of you who haven’t heard, I recently became the NGPC’s new public information officer in the panhandle and a regional editor for NEBRASKAland magazine.

Office complexes are not high on my list of favorite places to be but it was fascinating to get an insider’s look at the workings of the agency responsible for managing the land and natural resources that have brought so much joy to my life.

I enjoyed rubbing elbows with my new coworkers in the Information and Education Division, including those responsible for producing the esteemed magazine. It became quite apparent that my career path, which most recently consisted of 12 years in higher education communications and promotion, had taken on new life as I walked in and out of offices decorated with taxidermy and nature art.

The week included many highlights. Among them was NGPC photo librarian Sarah Johnson’s tour of her part of the operation. It was awe-inspiring to stand in the room that houses more than half a century of images that have adorned the pages of NEBRASKAland magazine – images that have long served as a source of pride for the state’s inhabitants. I look forward to adding to the collection.

Of course, many in my neck of the woods often convey that people in Lincoln care little about western Nebraska. That certainly was not my impression of the Game and Parks Commission personnel I met in the Star City. They seem to be full aware of the outdoor gems we have in western Nebraska. That awareness is a big reason I have the job I do. With most of my new coworkers, I could sense envy that I was returning to the beautiful country of the Pine Ridge.

Yes, I was a lot like a kid on a field trip last week. Now I’m back in northwestern Nebraska and it’s time to shift into full worker mode. I hope those of you who share my magnificent part of the state will join my effort to bring attention to its many resources of the outdoors.

Of course, you can follow my work by subscribing to the magazine and visiting this blog. I’ve also created a Twitter account — @ngpc_haag – for those who want more frequent updates. If you want to reach me directly, email me at justin.haag@nebraska.gov or call 308-430-8515.

With a little luck, determination and your assistance, I expect that I will have my feet on the ground in no time.

About 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.

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