My 45th Year at Game and Parks

January 2, 2024 greg wagner

Forty-five years is very long time for anything, isn’t it?

Forty-five years is an exceptionally long time for working at the same organization. Think about it — four-and-a-half decades. WOW!

This year, 2024, marks the beginning of my 45th year at the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. My career spans a few different divisions within the agency – Fisheries, Parks and Information and Education (now Communications). I will be 62 years of age this year and I started working at Game and Parks many moons ago early in 1979 when I was 16 (my birth date is August 11, 1962).

From L to R, yours truly, the late Darrell Feit and Diane Fleck (Pickering). This photo is of Nebraska Game and Parks Commission/Ak-sar-ben Aquarium employees from June of 1979 at the dedication ceremony of the aquarium in the Schramm Park State Recreation Area near Gretna, NE. Photo courtesy of Schramm Education Center Staff/Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.

I am currently the communications and marketing specialist and manager for the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission’s Omaha-Metro Office/Service Center.

I greatly enjoy my vocation with the Game and Parks Commission to the utmost. Even though there are trying days, it has been and remains a dream job. In my view, the agency is an awesome place to work! I am not ready to hang up my uniform shirt just yet.

I am passionate and deeply care about Nebraska’s wildlife, parkland, natural and cultural resources.

Not a week passes when I am not challenged. Not a week passes when I mustn’t adapt to change. Not a week passes when I don’t learn something new and exciting. Not a week passes when I don’t meet someone who I hadn’t previously known. Not a week passes when I don’t get to think in an unorthodox manner (out-of-the-box) about a subject to cover and not a week passes when I don’t discover how I can be more creative or improve something.

I enjoy interacting with Jack Keenan of Omaha’s KETV NewsWatch 7 each week on the Great Outdoors TV segment. We make them informative and entertaining! Photo courtesy of KETV.

I was even asked to narrate the video below a few years back on our new Venture Parks because of the familiarity of my voice. This was a new enterprise for me. The short video was produced by Ralph Wall of Lincoln, NE. Ralph was our video producer at the time for the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.

I have been around for a while. I would tell you that “I am long in the tooth.” If you’re wondering, ‘long in the tooth’ is an idiom that equates to older age. A horse’s teeth grow with age, and the length of the front teeth is often used as an indicator of equine age.

Yours truly on a Canada goose hunt in southeast Nebraska several years ago. Photo courtesy of Mark Davis, Powell, WY.

There is no doubt that we learn and develop through the numerous  experiences that make up our work life. I have many, many of these experiences. I have been through fires, floods, wildlife diseases, the COVID-19 pandemic and much more.

I am well-traveled. I have been to all 93 Nebraska counties, all 76 state park areas and the Cowboy Recreational Trail, plus a host of state wildlife management areas. I have been on every highway and major river system in the state.

This is a video piece of a canoe trip I coordinated on Nebraska’s Dismal River in 1998. The piece was done by Ralph Wall.

I have hunted most game species, trapped most fur-bearing animals and caught most of the predominant fish species that Nebraska offers.

I revel in catching crappie like nearly all of you do in Nebraska waters in the springtime. Photo by Rich Berggren of the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.

I have a love affair with this state if you have not noticed. I believe each of the various regions of Nebraska are uniquely beautiful in what I consider to be America’s variety of genuine rural charm. And, I have such a fondness for the people of Nebraska. The laid-back, down-home, friendly, hard-working, straight-forward ways of its residents, especially landowners, are priceless attributes in this modern era.

I am with a salt-of-the-earth Nebraska farmer, Wayne Kahlandt of rural Waterloo, NE, as we discuss agriculture, habitat and wild game. Photo by Rich Berggren of the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.

I don’t want to live or work anywhere else. I am from here. I grew up here, and graduated from high school and college here. I am a Cornhusker whose family history dates back 158 years here. I plan to stay here. I thoroughly enjoy the changing of the seasons, skies and scenery here.

Nebraska’s Johnson Lake at sunset on a late March pre-spawn walleye fishing trip. Photo by Greg Wagner of the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.

I truthfully wouldn’t trade my current position at Game and Parks with any of you for any amount of money! I am dead serious.

Oh, the cool stuff I have witnessed or encountered firsthand. The wildlife. The fish. The rivers. The wild places. The parks. The people. The great people — you, you and you! The wonderful people I have worked for and with and met through the years. Yes, most of my work over the last 45 years has been about people and specifically — you! I. ENJOY. YOU!

I take a lighthearted pic with Brad Leggett, Founder/General Manager, KJFT-LPFM 107.9 & 98.9 (TiM FM) in Lincoln, NE. Photo by Nick Buras of Omaha, NE.

One of the things I have never lost sight of over the years is that I am one of you and I work for you – you pay my salary.

Like you, I am a hunter, trapper, angler, forager, camper, hiker, boater, park goer, wildlife watcher, etc. I always try to put myself literally in your place as an outdoor adventurer or a member of the public when questions are being asked or information is being sought. I have always attempted to put forth maximum effort to make sure your outdoor trip is the best it can be! Again, after all, I am one of you!

An adult male wild turkey I harvested during a recent Nebraska spring wild turkey hunting season in rural Douglas County, NE. Photo by Rich Berggren of the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.

I have always tried to treat everyone with politeness, dignity, respect and quick responsiveness along with an appropriate touch of humor or folksiness. At times, you may not like what I have had to say about a law, regulation, policy or decision, but I have always been honest and forthright with you when explaining the whys and wherefores of those matters.

For me, it’s never been about covering my office walls with awards, plaques and citations of merit. That’s fine for others, not for me. I am not into the accolades. I have always let my work speak for myself. I have taken pride with being a champion for the resource and assisting you – the individual to the highest degree possible, whether in-person or on-the-air.

I have been doing a LIVE Outdoor Report segment on Omaha’s KFAB/1110 AM radio station nearly every Friday morning since 1989. KFAB’s Scott Voorhees is to my left. Photo courtesy of Lucy Chapman of KFAB radio.

When it comes to conservation, I have practiced what have I preached. For example, I caught and released a large, master-angler-sized flathead catfish several years ago in a private sandpit lake along the Platte River in southeast Nebraska. Below is the video of it which was shot by Rich Berggren, Conservation Officer with the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission out of Waterloo NE.

From past to present, one word — treasures, sums up my workmates at Game and Parks. I have appreciated and gleaned so much from all of them through the years and continue to do so.

This is a photo of Nebraska Game and Parks Commission staffers during a pit-stop on a canoe trip along the Elkhorn River near Scribner, NE in the summer of 1984. From L to R, the late Duane Westerholt, Phil Swinscoe, Dan Curran and yours truly. Photo by Jim MacAllister.

Are we a team at Game and Parks? You bet we are, absolutely.

I served on a panel discussion assembled in 2023 about “Wild Food and Foraging in the Great Plains” at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln (UN-L). Our team from left to right: Daryl Bauer of NE Game and Parks Fisheries, myself, Amy Bousman of KS Wildlife and Parks Education and Jenny Wheatley of NE Game and Parks Communications. Photo courtesy of Larkin Powell of UN-L’s School of Natural Resources.

However, it goes far beyond that though. We are a family! There is this family-oriented, caring, positive, fun atmosphere that has always permeated at Game and Parks and with other wildlife conservation and outdoor recreation partners. This type of culture fosters nurturing, success and longevity. We are the models for workforce integration across divisional and sectional lines. We support each other. We look out for each other. We rally around each other when there is personal strife like the loss of a relative. My colleagues are gems, they are family!

Me with Nebraska conservation officer Rich Berggren of Waterloo following a recent holiday-oriented Saturday morning Great Outdoor Radio Show that I host. Photo by Nick Buras of Omaha’s Boomer Radio.

What inspires me as I start my 45th year at Game and Parks?

Four key things stand out for my personal motivation, and they are: (1) To tell you something that you did not know regarding nature, wildlife conservation or outdoor recreation, (2) To have you gain a new perspective on a topic, (3) To have you visit or revisit an enhanced public area, and, (4) To get you to share your outdoor knowledge with a newcomer or embark on a new outdoor activity yourself.

Now, about underwater basket weaving …

The two most important days of your life are the day you were born and the day you find out why. – Mark Twain

Here I am inviting you and your family to come and fish with us at one of our summer, hands-on Family Fishing Nights at Lake Halleck in Papillion, NE. Photo by Larry Pape of the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.

The post My 45th Year at Game and Parks appeared first on Nebraskaland Magazine.

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