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Author Archives: Justin Haag, Regional Editor/PIO

Justin Haag serves the Panhandle as a NEBRASKAland’s Regional Editor and Public Information Officer for the Commission. Haag was raised in southwestern Nebraska, where he developed a love for fishing and hunting. After earning a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Chadron State College in 1996, he worked four years as an editor and reporter at newspapers in Chadron and McCook. Prior to joining the Commission in 2013, he worked 12 years as a communicator at Chadron State, serving as the institution’s media and public relations coordinator the last five. He and his wife, Cricket, live in Chadron, and enjoy introducing their two children to the many outdoor recreational opportunities of the Pine Ridge region.

Prescribed burns planned in the Panhandle

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Nebraska Game and Parks Commission officials have scheduled prescribed burns on Wildlife Management Areas in Scotts Bluff and Morrill counties in the coming weeks. A 200-acre burn at the Cedar Canyon Wildlife Management Area southwest of Gering may begin as early as Tuesday and Wednesday, April 15-16, if conditions are favorable. Other properties with approved burn plans may follow. They are the Arnold Trupp WMA north of Bayard and the Nine Mile Creek WMA southeast of Lake Minatare State Recreation ... Read More »

Panhandle Passages: Taking Root

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Every little bit helps, and every little bit has a way of turning into a big bit. Such is the case with the Boy Scouts’ annual tree planting event at Fort Robinson State Park, which I enjoyed photographing Saturday. The process of getting hundreds of scouts and volunteers into the field to plant ponderosa pine seedlings in the yearly reforestation effort has been honed to near perfection and is a sight to see. It was a bittersweet day, though, for ... Read More »

Final trees planted in 25-year project at Fort Robinson

Jim Schmitt of Dalton hands out ponderosa pine seedlings for planting in the Spring Creek area of Fort Robinson State Park and Wildlife Management Area. Haag,

All the roots have been planted for a northwestern Nebraska reforestation program. Now, the project has been turned over to Mother Nature. About 1,400 members of the Boy Scouts of the Longs Peak Council and other volunteers planted 10,500 trees at Fort Robinson State Park on Saturday, the final chapter of an annual effort to reforest areas burned in a massive 1989 wildfire. The planting marked the 25th and final year for the event. The planters were greeted with seasonably ... Read More »

A License to Feed

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Readers have long been sending us photos of their outdoors-themed personalized license plates for publication. As people have a fondness of their vehicles, they also take pride in the government-issued items that identify their chosen rides. If you’re like me, your hoarder instincts kick in when it comes time to get a new set of license plates and find a place for the old ones. Thankfully, I’ve found a way to save those plates and help wildlife while I’m at ... Read More »

Panhandle Passages: Soldier Creek Runs Through It

The middle fork of Soldier Creek flows over rocks.

Some of western Nebraska’s most enjoyable fishing can be found at the ponds on the 22,000 acres of Fort Robinson State Park. Count me among the anglers who have long enjoyed dropping a line at the Carter P. Johnson Lake, Ice House Ponds and Grabel Ponds. Whether from the bank, through the ice, or atop kayaks and jon boats, the ponds serve as a great fishing destination. The scenery is great and the whopper largemouth bass and other species are ... Read More »

Panhandle Passages: Chopper Time

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From the rocky buttes of the Wildcat Hills near Gering to the evergreen-studded canyons near Bassett, a helicopter crew put in time for Nebraska’s big game conservation efforts during the past week and month. I’ve been fortunate to be up close and personal with some of their air time. Last week, the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission used the help of a contracted helicopter crew of California-based Native Range Capture Services to catch bighorn sheep and elk and provide the ... Read More »

26 bighorns moved from Wildcat Hills to Pine Ridge

Bighorn Sheep

During five different occasions, Nebraska Game and Parks Commission officials have looked to other states and Canada to find and capture bighorn sheep to release in their reintroduction efforts. This week, they didn’t have to leave their home state to do it. On Wednesday, the Commission contracted a helicopter crew to capture 26 sheep at the Hubbard Gap region of the Wildcat Hills which were moved by agency staff to Fort Robinson State Park and the Bighorn Wildlife Management Area, ... Read More »

Panhandle Passages: Tracking Cats

The cougar perches in a tree.

A new year and a new season. As you’ve probably heard by now, Nebraska’s first two permit holders for mountain lion season in the Pine Ridge were successful Thursday. The season has garnered a lot of attention, being Nebraska’s first. With photography equipment in hand, I accompanied Holden Bruce, the 16-year-old hunter from Franklin, one of the two permit holders. He came to northwest Nebraska with his father, Jeremy, and older brother, Tristan. We set out early New Year’s Day ... Read More »

Panhandle Passages: Scanning for Deer

For the first time in Nebraska, deer check station personnel in the northwestern district used bar code scanners to check in permits.

I remember when a large retail chain opened a store near my hometown and brought with it something amazing. To a child such as me, bar code scanner technology seemed magical. No longer did we have to wait for the cashier to hand input each item – all that was required was a simple beep. The same technology received positive feedback last week at a place far from the express lane– a northwestern district public deer meeting at Chadron. The ... Read More »