2019 marked an incredible year. Pheasants Forever & Quail Forever of Nebraska has impacted over 6 Million Acres since 1987, the first of all states in the organization to do so. The Nebraska team has been a leading force in a variety of areas: habitat development programs, youth mentor successes, and even prescribed fires. But who shares a part in these stories of accomplishment?
Pheasants Forever & Quail Forever in Nebraska is excited to announce the release of Conservation Success Stories. A showcase of projects that have created impacts across the state through the efforts of staff and partnering conservation groups. In March’s newsletter, Working Lands Coordinator Ryan Lodge shared his story, along with partnering landowner and contractor input. Continue reading for the detailed story.
In addition to showcasing articles of success, we will also be posting YouTube clips explaining various programs open to landowners across the state. Additional clips will demonstrate the beneficial programs that exemplify Pheasants Forever & Quail Forever goals. Witness the first of the series, Working Lands, below and check back each month for the latest showcased story and program.
Ryan Lodge, Working Lands Coordinator for Nebraska, has been working with a rancher Greg Gehl and family since 2017. While the program that Lodge and Gehl originally invested in started with Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), it now includes EQIP Working Lands for Wildlife (EQIP WLFW), and the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP). All of these programs are available from partnerships between the Natural Resources Conservation Service, Nebraska Cattlemen, Rainwater Basin Joint Venture, US Fish & Wildlife Partners for Fish and Wildlife, Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, the Sandhills Task Force, The Nature Conservancy, and Pheasants Forever. A special initiative in a ten-county area of the eastern Sandhills is the focus of Working Lands for Wildlife. This partnership provides both financial and technical assistance through EQIP by assisting with mechanically removing eastern red cedars, modifying grazing infrastructure, adoption of new grazing systems and integrating prescribed fire. In the 3 years that this initiative has been available, NRCS and its partners have impacted almost 33,000 acres.
Of those 33,000 acres, is Greg Gehl. Gehl ranches in the eastern sandhills of Greeley and Wheeler Counties. These programs have been used by Gehl on several projects over the last 3 years, mainly dealing with EQIP WLFW. Lodge asked Gehl what his objectives were for participating in the program and Gehl responded, “We originally started with EQIP years ago to get pipeline and tanks to get better grazing distribution. WLFW allowed us an opportunity to solve a problem we couldn’t afford on our own in regard to cedar tree removal.” Gehl continued, “EQIP Working Lands for Wildlife allowed us to impact a lot of acres in a short time. We never could have impacted this many acres on such a large scale, in such a short amount of time, on our own. This has allowed us to save more money and be more profitable in the long run.” While wildlife is important to Gehl and family, their main objective was to increase grass quality. When asked about the benefits Gehl has seen when enrolled in these programs, he said, “We saw a huge change in the grass where we cut trees. I would guess we almost doubled in grass production where the trees were cut. Additionally, we’ve gained more usable moisture for our grass that was being robbed by eastern red cedar trees.” The other benefit they have seen is stability. According to Gehl, “This is a family ranch and one of their main goals is trying to bring the kids back and make the ranch as profitable as possible.” When talking to Gehl, it is clear that they want to make it work for the next generation. The Gehl family ranch also participates in CSP, “which has been a huge incentive for them to keep doing what they are doing.”
The benefits of the programs don’t just affect the landowners enrolled. It also helps many local contractors in the area to help the landowner and partners achieve objectives, one of those being eastern red cedar removal. Lodge spoke with a local contractor who has done many eastern red cedar removal projects for us in the Sandhills, Greg Meyer, owner of MTS Tree Service out of Royal, Nebraska. Meyer has spoken positively about what we as partners and landowners are trying to achieve in the Sandhills. Meyer said, “The projects the partners provide offers a huge incentive for landowners to clear trees, especially the way the ag economy is, it’s not easy for landowners to spend money on cutting trees on their own.” Meyer and his business also see large benefits from the work that partners are doing. He added, “I depend on these programs and partners to keep my business going. It allows me to provide jobs by having employees run my tree cutting machines.” Whether it be the landowner or the contractors, everyone benefits from the work and incentives that are offered.
If you have your own success story you would like to have featured, contact your local Farm Bill Wildlife Biologist or email Outreach & Communication Coordinator, Holly Green, at firstname.lastname@example.org.