Grant to Help Districts Expand Platte River Habitat

Grant to Help Districts Expand Platte River Habitat

Conversion of irrigated acres to dryland is major goal.

The Central Platte Natural Resources District will receive $1,000,000 from the Nebraska Environmental Trust for the "Platte Basin Habitat Enhancement Project." This is the final year of award.

The project is one of the 94 projects receiving $15,412,788 in grant awards from the Nebraska Environmental Trust this year.

The Platte Basin Habitat Enhancement Project will enable the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission and several Platte Basin natural resources districts to implement the Nebraska Natural Legacy Project in the Platte River Basin from the Colorado and Wyoming state lines to Columbus, Nebraska.

The Legacy Program has designated the expansion of grassland habitats and their associated habitats along the length of the North Platte River, the South Platte River and the Platte River as a priority in its state conservation strategy. To enhance the availability of native grasslands and instream flows for fish and wildlife and increase the resilience and sustainability of both agricultural and native habitats in the Platte Basin ecosystem, the PBHEP will purchase irrigation water rights on a willing seller basis and convert the land irrigated by the water right to either native habitat or a dryland farming operation.

Currently used federal programs have achieved some level of temporary retirement of irrigation rights to create habitat and enhance instream flows. Project officials say more must be done. Using these federal programs as a base, funds from the Nebraska Environmental Trust will be combined with local and state dollars to provide added incentives to convert these temporary contracts into permanent contracts that will provide aquifer recharge, and stream flows in perpetuity and native grassland habitat for at least the life of the federal program contracts, or 10-15 years. 

The Commission and the NRDs working with other partners will develop individual habitat management plans suitable to each local ecosystem and the landowners' operation.  They will provide education opportunities throughout the basin to encourage other landowners to initiate their own habitat enhancement plans. By enhancing native habitats in the Platte Basin, this project will increase the sustainability of both our native and agricultural ecosystems, provide additional hunting, fishing and recreational opportunities, and diversify the income base of people in the Platte Basin and the whole State of Nebraska.

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