One of the continent’s most important landscapes for migrating waterfowl will receive much-needed habitat work, thanks to Nebraska Environmental Trust grants. NET has awarded $429,000 in three grants to help fund Ducks Unlimited habitat restoration projects across the state.

Ducks Unlimited and partners will restore or enhance habitat in the Sandhills and along the North Platte, Missouri, Niobrara and Elkhorn rivers. DU will match the grants five-to-one with private major sponsor dollars.

» North Platte River restoration, $114,000: Grant and match funds will be used to protect and restore degraded slough, marsh and riverine habitat, remove invasive Russian olives, install water-control structures/rock checks and restore diverse native prairie near Melbeta. The project goal is to protect the agricultural, ranching and wildlife habitat along the North Platte River, the lifeblood of western Nebraska.

» Steer Creek habitat improvement, $90,000: Ducks Unlimited will improve 2,600 habitat acres along Steer Creek in Cherry County. An important tributary of the Snake River, Steer Creek runs through the sandhills, the continent’s largest remaining intact grasslands. Encroaching eastern red cedar is degrading the area near the creek. With the help of Nebraska Environmental Trust funds, Ducks Unlimited, the USDA Forest Service and the Rainwater Basin Joint Venture hope to address this threat in the Samuel R. McKelvie National Forest — the largest public property in the Sandhills. Returning this landscape to a native prairie and riparian area free of eastern red cedar will improve migratory waterfowl and grassland bird habitat for nesting, increase plant diversity and cattle grazing opportunities, decrease water uptake by invasive cedars, and increase the quality of public use.

» Northeast Nebraska wetland restoration, $225,000: The Northeast Nebraska Wetland Restorations project will restore and enhance wetland habitats that help reduce flooding and provide critical habitat for migrating birds and local wildlife along the Missouri, Niobrara and Elkhorn rivers, and other eastern Nebraska wetland complexes.The ecosystem services (water purification, flood prevention) provided by additional wetlands benefit all Nebraskans. Nature’s filter, wetlands filter excess nutrients, which improves water quality. Wetlands also absorb excess water, so additional wetlands in the northeastern portion of the state will help prevent or lessen the impact of floods. DU and partners will complete six wetland restorations and enhancement projects in public areas used by many for recreational activities, due to their proximity to Omaha and Lincoln.

This year, NET awarded $19,501,444 grants to cover 117 projects. Of these, 85 were new applications and 32 were carry-over projects. To protect the investment from NET and partners, all restoration work will be completed on perpetually protected properties.

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