Saline Wetlands Conservation Partnership
Although several existing programs have been recognized to address saline wetland conservation needs, they alone have not been enough to ensure the long term protection of this endangered resource. Thus, the Saline Wetland Conservation Partnership (SWCP) was created to offer additional protection and management of the state’s diminishing saline wetlands. The SWCP is unique in its approach to preserve and restore the integrity of Nebraska’s Eastern Saline wetlands in that it takes a partnership approach to address the conservation of saline wetlands and the needs of the community. In 2002, the City of Lincoln received a $750, 000 Nebraska Environmental Trust (NET) grant for the implementation of the Eastern Saline Wetlands Project to meet the further conservation needs of Nebraska’s Eastern Saline Wetlands. Then in 2003, an inter-local agreement was signed between the City of Lincoln, Lancaster County, Lower Platte South Natural Resource District, The Nature Conservancy, and the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. The agreement specified these entities, as full-share partners, to establish the Saline Wetlands Conservation Partnership, and draft and implement a conservation plan for the Eastern Saline Wetlands. Further funding for the Partnership has been provided through Nebraska Environmental Trust grants and state and federal funding programs.
The Implementation Plan for the Conservation of Nebraska’s Eastern Saline Wetlands was completed by the Partnership in 2003. The plan is a holistic watershed approach designed to preserve both wetlands and their surrounding watersheds, and its implementation involves local, state, and federal agencies working in concert with private individuals and organizations to develop additional strategies and programs that encourage saline wetland conservation. The Plan’s Goal is “No net loss of saline wetlands and their associated functions with a long-term gain in sustaining wetland functions through the restoration of hydrology, prescribed wetland management, and watershed protection.” To meet this goal the Plan includes Comprehensive Strategies that address: 1) Hiring a Coordinator, 2) Outreach and Feedback, 3) Planning and Coordination, 4) Wetland Protection, 5) Priority conservation Planning, 6) Stream Restoration, 7) Private Lands issues, 8) Taxes on public lands, 9) Research, and 10) Funding. The Plan highlights five landscape objectives to establish projection and restoration targets for the conservation of about 4,000 acres of saline wetlands in Lancaster and Saunders counties.
The implementation of this plan is the primary responsibility of the SWCP’s full-share partners. To ensure the success of the plan, full-share partners are often required to work closely with other partners and private land owners. Other partners have contributed to the SWCP through their support of Nebraska Environmental trust grants awarded in 2002, 2005 and 2008 by providing resources for the conservation and restoration of the Eastern Saline Wetlands. These partners include the Natural Resources Conservation Service, Cooper Foundation, Ducks Unlimited, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality, Home Builders Association of Lincoln, Nebraska Wildlife Federation, Waschiska Audubon, Hugo and Thelma Aspegren Trust, Nebraska Sierra Club, Pheasants Forever, Conservation Alliance of the Great Plains, and various private landowners. The partnership utilizes several strategies, from the purchase of wetlands from willing sellers to conservation easements keeping the land in private ownership but protecting it in perpetuity.