Home » Author Archives: Justin Haag, Regional Editor/PIO

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.

Wildcat Hills Nature Center Expansion Begins

Architectural drawing of expansion. (Courtesy of Studio 120 Architecture)

One of the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission’s premier facilities in the Panhandle is about to become even more impressive. Construction has officially begun on an addition to the Wildcat Hills Nature Center south of Gering. The $2.375 million expansion will add 8,720 square feet to the building, which serves as headquarters for the Commission’s educational programs in the region and the 700-acre Wildcat Hills State Recreation Area. The new construction will more than double the size of the existing ... Read More »

Public Bird Banding Days Set at Chadron State Park, Wildcat Hills

A female orchard oriole is held by Alexandra Mayes, education coordinator for the Bird Conservancy of the Rockies, while getting its photo taken by an attendee of last year's public bird banding demonstrations at Chadron State Park. (NEBRASKAland/Justin Haag)

The public is invited to get up-close and personal with bird populations at two parks in the Nebraska Panhandle this weekend and next. Bird banding stations have been set up at Chadron State Park near Chadron and Wildcat Hills State Recreation Area near Gering. Attendees of special public banding days will watch and learn as biologists retrieve birds from nets, collect data, and fit each with a lightweight metal leg band before releasing it back to the wild. The first ... Read More »

Ride the Ridge Coming to Fort Robinson State Park

Riders cross Soldier Creek at Fort Robinson State Park during last year's Ride the Ridge. (NEBRASKAland/Justin Haag)

One of northwestern Nebraska’s most popular annual trail rides will occur at Fort Robinson State Park this weekend, drawing riders and their horses from near and far. The annual Ride the Ridge will be Saturday, June 20, highlighting the beautiful scenery and terrain of the Pine Ridge near Crawford. Registration begins at 8 a.m. on Soldier Creek Road, with the first ride of the day following at 9 o’clock. A second ride is offered at 1 p.m., each consisting of ... Read More »

Bowring Ranch Celebrating Sod House Sunday


The Bowring Ranch State Historical Park near Merriman is inviting the public to step back in time this Father’s Day, June 21, by attending its annual Sod House Sunday event. Numerous activities will depict Sandhills ranch life of yesteryear, including praise music and worship from 10 a.m. to noon. Team penning will begin at 1 p.m., along with children’s activities and an open house for the Bowring ranch home and sod house. The visitor center will be open from 8 ... Read More »

Nebraska’s First State Park Celebrating 94 Years

Free paddleboat rides on the newly renovated pond will be a highlight of Chadron State Park's anniversary celebration this weekend. (NEBRASKAland/Justin Haag)

Chadron State Park will celebrate its distinction as Nebraska’s first park and its 94th anniversary Saturday, June 13, with a wide variety of activities for all ages. All of the park’s regular offerings will be in full swing, in addition to many special activities at the Trading Post and other points. There’s plenty to entertain the children at the annual celebration, including free paddleboat rides at the newly renovated pond from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. The Hippity Hop Horse ... Read More »

Habitat Assistance Available to Pine Ridge Landowners


Landowners in the Pine Ridge region are being encouraged to explore opportunities for cost-sharing and technical assistance in habitat enhancement projects available through a partnership between Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory and the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. Katy Kuhnel, a shortgrass prairie coordinating wildlife biologist for the Nebraska Natural Legacy Program, is available to assist landowners with a wide variety of projects to improve the landscape for wildlife. They include prairie restoration, invasive tree removal, grazing management, infrastructure development and ... Read More »

Bioblitz Putting Focus on Wildlife at Oliver Reservoir

Birds, such as this Wilson's phalarope, will be among the wildlife celebrated at the Bioblitz at Oliver Reservoir near Kimball. (NEBRASKAland/Justin Haag)

Western Nebraska’s unique and diverse wildlife will again be the focus of Bioblitz, an annual event at Oliver Reservoir Recreation Area near Kimball on Friday and Saturday, June 19-20. Scientists and other naturalists will tell attendees about local wildlife and practices to improve habitat and monitor species. Educational and entertaining demonstrations and activities, including trapping animals for observation, are scheduled between 3 p.m. Friday and 3 p.m. Saturday. Attendees who don’t want to miss any part of the event are ... Read More »

Intertribal Gathering Celebrating American Indian Culture

The annual Intertribal Gathering attracts hundreds of dancers and spectators. (NEBRASKAland/Justin Haag)

Fort Robinson State Park will again celebrate Native American culture during one of the High Plains’ premier powwows. The 16th annual Intertribal Gathering will be Friday through Sunday, June 12-14, featuring traditional dancing, drumming and singing in a family-friendly environment. The event annually attracts hundreds of dancers and spectators. Grand entries are scheduled for 7 p.m. Friday, 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturday, and noon Sunday under the direction of master of ceremonies Billy Good Voice Elk Jr. A wide ... Read More »

Moose Triggers Temporary Boating Ban at Bridgeport Lake

A moose trots through Bridgeport State Recreation Area earlier this week. (NEBRASKAland/Justin Haag)

Officials of the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission have implemented a temporary boating ban on Center Lake at Bridgeport State Recreation Area because of moose activity in the area. Officials say there has been a regular occurrence of at least one moose in and around Center Lake, the largest body of water in the park that is most often used by boaters. A moose has been known to visit an island at the lake in recent weeks. “It’s unfortunate that ... Read More »

Free Entry Day Activities Planned for Panhandle Parks

Lillie Schmidt of Gordon and other children try out binoculars during a bird watching activity at Chadron State Park. Three birding hikes are scheduled at parks throughout the Panhandle on Saturday. (NEBRASKAland/Justin Haag)

Parks throughout the Panhandle are planning special activities for Free Park Entry and Fishing Day on Saturday, May 16. Free Park Entry and Fishing Day is an annual opportunity in which the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission allows fishing and entry to parks without requiring permits. It provides an opportunity for people to experience the state’s diverse park areas and fishing resources free of charge. Following is a list of special activities at the region’s State Parks, State Recreation Areas ... Read More »