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April 4, 2002
For More Information Contact:
Diane Gonzolas, Citizen Information Center, 441-7831
Mike DeKalb, Planning Department, 441-6370
Terry Genrich, Parks and Recreation Department, 441-7939

Environmental Trust Awards Grant for Wetlands
Funds will help protect Salt Creek tiger beetle

Mayor Don Wesely announced today that the Nebraska Environmental Trust has awarded the City of Lincoln a $250,000 grant to help fund the first year of the Eastern Saline Wetlands Project. The Trust also approved $250,000 for years two and three pending availability of funds. The targeted eastern saline wetlands ecosystem is located primarily in northern Lancaster County and southern Saunders County near Little Salt Creek, Salt Creek and Rock Creek.

"The Eastern Saline Wetlands Project will preserve and protect the most imperiled natural community in Nebraska, which is home to the Salt Creek tiger beetle," said Mayor Wesely. "About 4,700 acres of saline wetlands still exist, and only 2,000 of the acres are protected. These saline wetlands are unique to this limited area of the state and are also the habitat for the endangered saltwort as well as other fauna and flora."

The project calls for protecting the saline wetlands in three ways:

  • Acquiring the wetlands, adjoining buffer tracts and adjoining connective strips;
  • Purchasing conservation easements on the wetlands, the adjoining buffer strips and adjoining connective strips; and
  • Hiring a full-time saline wetlands coordinator to develop a broad-based supportive coalition and to develop a permanent administrative structure for all of the saline wetlands.
Property titles and easements will be acquired only from willing sellers and not by eminent domain.

Major partners in the grant include the City of Lincoln, Lancaster County, the Lower Platte South Natural Resources District, The Nature Conservancy and the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. Each has contributed a total of $75,000 in matching funds over the three years. Other partners include the Cooper Foundation, Ducks Unlimited, the Nebraska Wildlife Federation, the Nebraska Sierra Club, USDA - Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Home Builders Association of Lincoln, the Wachiska Audubon, Pheasants Forever, and the Conservation Alliance of the Great Plains.

At the end of the three years, the participants plan to have a comprehensive strategic plan describing the most logical and permanent legal structures needed for acquiring, administering and operating the eastern saline wetlands as an integrated unit. The plan would include the financing sources appropriate and suitable for developing and maintaining the system.

Wesely said the project is consistent with the recommendations released in December 2001 by a local expert committee the Mayor named to study issues concerning the rare Salt Creek tiger beetle. Several hundred of the beetles live in the saline wetlands near the 27th Street and Interstate 80 interchange.

Wesely said the project will also provide an additional measure of flood control along the affected waterways. That's because the land acquired or protected by conservation easements would be largely in the flood plains and left in its natural state or used for limited agricultural purposes. The project would also protect the quality of the stream water and ground water from typical urban and agricultural pollutants.

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