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Nebraska Lottery grant helps high-achieving student
RaeAnna Hartsgrove is a junior at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln who is able to continue studying the environmental issues that are her passion, thanks to the help of a $2,500 Nebraska Opportunity Grant funded by proceeds from the Nebraska Lottery. That makes a big difference to a student living with her older sister and counting her pennies.
“It definitely helps with books, tuition, car insurance and stuff like that. I have a book next semester that’s going to cost me almost $200.”
Success in school has come naturally to RaeAnna.
At Lincoln North Star High School she earned a 4.1 grade point average and participated in the Lincoln schools’ Arts and Humanities Program. At UNL her GPA is about 3.5, her grades qualified her for membership in the National Society of Collegiate Scholars and she has a double major in environmental studies and in natural resources and environmental economics, along with an English minor. She plans to graduate in May 2018 after four years in college.
“I had a head start by graduating high school in three years, so I’m a year younger than the rest of my class.”
She has focused on the environment since enrolling in the university.
“I’ve always read articles about what’s going on in the world, especially on global warming. It’s just truly interesting, the science behind it and how they’ve proved that it’s happening. I thought I could learn more about it and maybe make an impact some day.”
Being on the Nebraska campus has exposed her to new viewpoints.
“Some of them have made me think about other issues – cattle, solar energy and wind energy on farms.”
RaeAnna said she wished more people realized that proceeds from the Nebraska Lottery help benefit good causes throughout the state.
“I don’t think a lot of people know about it at all. Most people just think the Lottery gives people money when they win it.”
In fact, 44.5 percent of beneficiary funds go to the Nebraska Environment Trust and 44.5 percent to education. The Nebraska Lottery has distributed more than $607 million in beneficiary funds since its inception.
“A lot of people are into education and a lot more people are into the environmental stuff now. If they knew the Lottery had something to do with it they’d probably want to play more or pitch in some way, because they’d know it’s going to something useful.”
Sowbelly Ranch: Helping to conserve a Pine Ridge jewel
In December 2015, Jim and Chris Voeller, the owners of the Sowbelly Ranch, a stunningly beautiful 1,304-acre section of the Sowbelly Canyon north of Harrison, Nebraska, permanently conserved the land through a conservation easement with the Nebraska Land Trust. The Voellers especially wanted to protect the habitat their ranch provides for elk and bighorn sheep.
With limited funds to purchase the easement, the Voellers generously offered to donate more than half of the easement’s value to the NLT through a bargain sale at less than half the appraised value. The Nebraska Environmental Trust, which receives 44.5% of state lottery proceeds, provided most of the balance through a grant for conservation of bighorn habitat. Other partners included the Nebraska Big Game Society, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Wild Sheep Foundation and the Iowa chapter of the Foundation for North American Wild Sheep. The diversity of the partners speaks to the land's value for wildlife and the desire to preserve one of the most beautiful places in Nebraska.
Partnering to fulfill the mission of Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever
Since 1997 the Nebraska Environmental Trust has been deeply involved in fulfilling the habitat mission of Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever. Some of the innovative and successful habitat and water-quality partnerships over the last 20 years include:
The Grassland Improvement Program
Assisting landowners improve the forage quality of grasslands by removing invasive trees, conducting prescribed burns and establishing rotational grazing systems
Corners for Wildlife Program
Establishing high-quality wildlife habitat on the corners of pivot irrigation systems
No-Till Grass Drills
Purchasing no-till grass drills to plant specific habitat mixtures and produce high-quality wildlife habitat
Public Information Events
Conducting more than 10,300 public information events since 2004 containing prescribed burn workshops, habitat tours, Conservation Reserve Program sign-up meetings and Habitat Help events
Safe and Effective Prescribed Burning
Supporting prescribed burning activities by helping to obtain prescribed burn equipment, hosting training events and assisting in the formation of local prescribed burn associations
Helping students find and save the elusive swift fox
The Nebraska Environmental Trust helps support the Nebraska Canid Project, a program assisting students from UNL and Chadron State set up camera traps and identify populations of the swift fox, an at-risk Nebraska species.
“Once common from western Canada to Texas, populations of swift fox have declined drastically since the settlement of the Great Plains,” said TJ Fontaine, assistant unit leader of the Nebraska Cooperative Fish & Wildlife Research Unit.
Locating these beautiful animals and gathering information on their ecological and geographical distributions is essential to successfully managing them. The students in the Nebraska Canid Project travel to the privately owned land of friends and family to set up cameras in an attempt to find and document swift foxes.