Nebraska’s Amazing Wetlands

January 30, 2023 Jenny Nguyen-Wheatley


Playa wetlands in Perkins County.

Photo by Eric Fowler

By Ted LaGrange, Wetland Program Manager

When my oldest child was in elementary school in the 1990s, I was invited to give a class presentation on wetlands. When I asked the students if Nebraska had any wetlands and whether any cool animals lived in them, I was shocked to hear them say, “No.”

They knew more about the Everglades of Florida and the Amazon of South America than they did about wetlands in their own state.

I wanted to fix this and started a project at Nebraska Game and Parks to help address the problem; we wrote and published a wetlands guide and produced an educational video, as well. The project was highly successful, but, as happens, the materials became outdated. At the same time, the ways people consume information also changed.

Common mergansers swoop in to land in an oxbow wetland on the Calamus River at Calamus Wildlife Management Area. Photo by Eric Fowler.

Fast forward to 2019 when a project got underway to update outreach and education products related to wetlands. Our goal was to increase awareness of the importance of wetlands in Nebraska and to grow an understanding of the need for wetland conservation. In addition to updating our Guide to Nebraska’s Wetlands, we also created a new publication for kids called Wetlandology and worked with the Platte Basin Timelapse group at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln to create five documentary films. They highlight Nebraska’s wetland types: playa, sandhill, saline, riverine and urban, and feature people, places and animals who depend on them to survive.

We want people to know:

  • Nebraska has more wetlands than any surrounding state.
  • Wetlands are highly productive and dynamic and are probably best known for the diversity of fish, wildlife and plants they support.
  • Wetlands provide important habitat for 50% of our birds and plants, 100% of our amphibians and fish, a third of our mammals and reptiles, and 70% of threatened or endangered species.
  • Less well known, but certainly as important, are the benefits that wetlands serve in improving water quality, recharging groundwater, sequestering carbon, protecting us from flood damage and providing places to recreate.
A black-crowned night heron (Nycticorax nycticorax) hunts for prey at a sandhills wetland pond near Ellsworth. Photo by Justin Haag.

In many places, Nebraska’s wetlands have suffered losses and face ongoing threats putting their benefits at risk. We hope sharing these stories about Nebraska’s wetlands will help to improve the conservation of these important areas.

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Nebraska Game and Parks and PBT coordinated this project with the Nebraska Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit at UNL, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Ducks Unlimited. We also sought input from 45 partner agencies and organizations.

The post Nebraska’s Amazing Wetlands appeared first on Nebraskaland Magazine.

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