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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.

Additional incentives offered during CRP sign-up

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LINCOLN, Neb. – The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission is offering additional incentives to landowners who sign-up for the Conservation Reserve Program, commonly known as CRP. Agricultural producers and private landowners can enroll in the CRP general sign-up through Feb. 12, or continuous CRP practices until Oct. 1. The program administered by the USDA’s Farm Service Agency provides annual rental payments for land devoted to conservation. Through CRP, farmers and ranchers establish a perennial cover, such as a stand of …

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Buttes of the Breakout

The Cheyenne Buttes provide one of the most scenic vantage points in the Pine Ridge. They also are forever tied to an event from Fort Robinson State Park’s history as a U.S. Cavalry post and got their name from a notorious event. Historians rate the happenings of Jan. 9, 1879, among the most significant events of the Indian Wars. While that day is certainly important, it is just one day among a period of more than three months. The previous …

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Grand Island bighorn sheep hunter successful

CRAWFORD, Neb. – Nebraska’s bighorn sheep hunting season ended Friday afternoon, Dec. 4, as the state’s only permit holder found success at Fort Robinson State Park in the Pine Ridge. Matt Odgen of Grand Island, who won his permit by a drawing open to Nebraska residents, harvested a 10-year-old Rocky Mountain bighorn ram from the herd that roams the northwest Nebraska tourist attraction. Todd Nordeen, the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission big game and disease research manager who supervises the …

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Game and Parks grateful for firefighting partners

ALLIANCE, Neb. – The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission credits the outstanding work of volunteer fire departments and other responders in limiting damage from two Panhandle wildfires in late August. The Hubbard’s Gap Fire in the Wildcat Hills south of McGrew burned about 4,000 acres, including more than 60 percent of the land at the 1,829-acre William’s Gap Wildlife Management Area. During the same period, the Aristocrat Fire burned about 400 acres in the Pine Ridge 3 miles south of …

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Wildlife officials observing effects from wildfires

McGREW, Neb. – Wildlife managers in the Nebraska Panhandle say the full effects of the region’s wildfires during the final days of August largely will be determined by what Mother Nature does in coming weeks and months. The public land most affected was Williams Gap Wildlife Management Area in Banner County. Along with 2,900 acres of adjacent private land, the fire burned about 1,100 acres on the 1,829-acre wildlife area. During the same period, some U.S. Forest Service property 3 …

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Crews responding to wildfires in the Panhandle

Wildfire in Wildcat Hills

ALLIANCE, Neb. – Visitors to public lands and other recreational sites in the Nebraska Panhandle are being advised of wildfires in the region, and are being asked to be especially cautious because the heightened risk for fires brought on by hot and dry weather. The Hubbard Gap Fire in the Wildcat Hills in Banner County south of McGrew had burned about 4,000 acres as of Friday afternoon. In addition to threatening and affecting private agricultural lands, early estimates indicate the …

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Poison ivy: Three leaves of dread

Hike for any length of time on Nebraska’s wild places and you will surely encounter the three-leaved nemesis known as poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans). Shelley Steffl, Nebraska Game and Parks Commission private lands wildlife biologist of Chadron, often encounters poison ivy while consulting landowners on habitat projects. “Normally it’s found around more wooded areas and in places that have a little more sunshine present,” Steffl said. “Uplands, woodlands, maybe a little moister soil. It can be found in any kind …

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Those Fiery Redheads

Beauty or beast, this woodpecker has an eye-catching appearance Aerial proficiency to swoop and snatch prey from the sky. Symmetrically arranged talons for clinging to vertical surfaces and a chiseled beak that hammers hardwood surfaces at 1,000 times the force of gravity. A long barbed tongue, three times as long as that self-sharpening dagger-like bill, for retrieving victims from deep within a crevice. All that, and a fiery red head. If readers were to consider that description alone, they might …

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Preserving the Pine Ridge

Catastrophic wildfires have ravaged more than half of northwestern Nebraska’s pine forests. Land managers are making strides toward a more sustainable future. On this sunny day, Bryce Gerlach is visiting a timber-thinning project at Gilbert-Baker Wildlife Management Area in the northwest corner of the state. Gerlach, who is a forester funded by the National Wild Turkey Federation and the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, likes what he sees. “This is the project that is going to save Gilbert-Baker someday,” he …

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Despite conservation woes, Blanding’s turtle keeps smiling

Among Nebraska’s eight species of native turtles, the happy-looking one gets special attention. The Blanding’s turtle (Emydoidea blandingii) is listed as a “tier 1” species in the Natural Legacy Project, Nebraska’s wildlife action plan. That makes it the only turtle species among the state’s animals and plants determined to have the greatest need for conservation efforts. Amanda Filipi, an outdoor education specialist at the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission’s Wildcat Hills Nature Center near Gering, said the turtle’s dark shell …

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