07 August 2020

Carbon Sequestration in Grassland Ecosystems - A Review of Scientific Literature

Dr. Kay L Kottas and Alicia Admiraal; Prairie Legacy Inc. (March 2020). Carbon sequestration in grassland ecosystems. With appended details by James E. Ducey and Dr. David M. Sutherland.

Introduction

The Sands Hills occur primarily within Nebraska though also in a south-central extent of South Dakota – and comprise more than 19,000 square miles of vast native grassland tracts. The region is internationally recognized for its expanses of mixed-grass prairie since there are both cool-season and warm-season species. More than 95 species of grasses are known to occur (Dr. David M. Sutherland, 1984; Vegetative key to grasses of the Sand Hills region of Nebraska) and most thrive. The grasses are essential range forage for livestock but are also a key vegetative feature stabilizing the sandy soils and a key aspect to other essential environment values. This includes carbon sequestration. [Introduction by James E. Ducey, 15 May 2020]

Review of Scientific Literature

The amount of carbon in the soil worldwide (1,600 billion metric tons) is double that in vegetation (560 billion metric tons) or in the atmosphere (750 billion metric tons) (Rice et al. 1998). Carbon cycling through plants occurs when plants bring in atmospheric carbon for use in photosynthesis. The carbon is stored in plant tissues both above and below ground. Eventually that carbon is released back into the atmosphere as plant tissue dies and is decomposed by microbial activity. The same result happens more quickly if the vegetation is burned. Much of the below ground carbon remains there, even as it decomposes. Grasslands store most of their carbon below ground. The extensive root systems of these plants sequester nearly as much carbon as forested lands, but far more efficiently (Kerlin 2018). When a tree decomposes or a forest burns, most of the stored carbon is released to the atmosphere. When the above ground biomass of a grassland decomposes or is burned, the below ground biomass and carbon remains sequestered. Approximately 60 to 80 percent of biomass in a tallgrass system occurs below ground (Wedin and Tilman 1990).

The ability of prairie systems to sequester carbon is affected by soil texture, weather patterns, temperature and the amount of ground cover (Jones and Donnelly 2004, Mengistu and Mekuriaw 2014), and by several other factors including precipitation, season, management such as grazing, and functional group of the dominant grasses. Nitrogen input can also affect plant growth and therefore how well carbon is sequestered. Interactions between these factors greatly affect response of grassland in a particular location. We know that cropped land can reduce methane (CH4) oxidation by 90% of what it is in native grassland (Mosier et al. 1997). Methane is broken down (oxidized) by bacteria into carbon dioxide (CO2). Because methane is 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas, that breakdown in grasslands is important. In cultivated soils among the tallgrass prairie, carbon cycling has been reduced by 50%. Even if cropland is returned to native perennial vegetation recovery of CH4 oxidation takes many decades (Mosier et al. 1997). Rosenzweig et al. (2016) estimate that in restored cultivated fields, the amount of time for soil carbon sequestration to return to the level of undisturbed native prairie can be centuries (more than 350 years).

In the Nebraska sandhills mixed grass prairie is similarly affected. Mixed grass communities provide ground cover in the sandhills across the dunes within the swell and swale topography. The swales have more above ground production and deeper A horizon soils and tend to hold more soil carbon than the swells (Hartmann 2013). In a study done by Hartmann (2013) removal of above ground vegetation, reduced CO2 flux rates by as much as 60%, but mean soil CO2 flux did not return to control levels even after ten years. In managing grasslands for carbon sequestration, limiting soil disturbance is of primary importance. Soil disturbance disrupts soil structure, results in increased soil temperature and aeration, allowing more decomposition and potential release or reduced uptake of carbon (Janowiak et al. 2013; Conant 2010). Disturbances to sandhills vegetation can therefore have serious long-term effects to carbon cycling and sequestration. Disturbances to soil, particularly in sandy soils, takes many decades of careful management to return soil carbon exchange to its natural state. Increased above ground biomass also increases potential for carbon storage. By managing plant growth and the cover on prairies and on agricultural land, we can help increase above ground biomass, help maintain or increase the presence of below ground mycorrhiza and enhance carbon sequestration.

Spangler (2011) presents some of the varied responses of grassland to grazing, citing studies that show both positive and negative grazing effects. Soil chemistry and associated microbial communities can change in response to grazing. Effects from trampling that would result from heavy grazing can remove aboveground biomass and change the physical characteristics of the soil. This in turn can limit water infiltration and root growth. Wilson et al. (2009) found a highly significant correlation between the abundance of arbuscular mycorrhiza hyphae in the soil and the ability of the soil to store carbon and nitrogen, exposing serious consequences to the soil ecosystem when disturbances cause a loss of arbuscular mycorrhiza. Ultimately, positive influence on soil organic carbon and nitrogen content seems to be realized under light grazing pressure, in contrast with heavy grazing or ungrazed treatments (Spangler 2011).

Precipitation also interacts with soil texture in regard to the impact of certain management practices, such as grazing. Grasslands on sandy, coarse-textured soils have increased soil carbon if rainfall increases under a grazing regime; grasslands on clay soils exhibit weak to strong decreases in soil carbon under these conditions (McSherry and Ritchie 2013). Conversely, with lower rainfall, clay soils show the largest increase in soil carbon compared to sandy soils (McSherry and Ritchie 2013). Soil carbon stocks already held in the soil tend to be higher in grasslands that have higher rainfall, but stocks decrease as temperature increases because evapotranspiration also increases (Janowiak et al. 2017).

By season, the average period of CO2 uptake was mid-April through late August, with tallgrass prairies in the southern Great Plains capable of accumulating more carbon; at other times of the year, the grasslands in the northern Great Plains and in short grass and mixed grass prairies, especially in the western part of the region, release carbon (Zhang et al. 2011).

The functional group of dominant grasses (C4, warm-season, or C3, cool season) was found to influence soil carbon uptake in several studies. C4 grasses, or mixtures of C4 and C3 grasses, were more resilient in their ability to accumulate soil carbon under increasing grazing pressure (McSherry and Ritchie 2013). Another 12-year study monitored net soil carbon and nitrogen and found that accumulation was positively affected by total root biomass, which increased with the presence of C4 grasses and legumes (Fornara and Tilman 2008). The inclusion of legumes was thought to be important because the ability of legumes to accumulate nitrogen helps to build soil organic matter and store more carbon. Further, this study showed that greater plant species diversity corresponded to greater uptake of carbon when compared to a monoculture (Fornara and Tilman 2008).

Another long-term study examined the effect of nitrogen inputs to mineral soils (Fornara and Tilman 2012). The addition of nitrogen contributed to increased carbon sequestration compared to unfertilized grassland, likely by increasing root mass, particularly of C3 plants. Aboveground biomass for both C4 and C3 grasses also increased during the 27-year study, but plant species richness decreased and dominance shifted to C3 grasses (Fornara and Tilman 2012). In 2017, Hungate et al. demonstrated the economic value of increased species diversity in carbon sequestration, furthering the economic argument for conservation of grassland biodiversity. For instance, an increase of 4 species over U.S. Conservation Reserve Program lands would provide 2.3 billion dollars in carbon storage value. Conversely, the loss of these species in remnant prairies would produce a similar economic devaluation of prairie land for carbon sequestration.

Summary

The loss of either cover, diversity, or both on grassland ecosystems translates to a large loss in carbon cycling, a huge opportunity loss in the below ground sequestration of carbon, and in the ability of grasslands to breakdown. Recovery from those losses of carbon sequestration to pre-disturbance rates can be an extremely long process, on the order of centuries. The gain or loss of carbon sequestration is variably dependent on soil type, precipitation, species dominance, species diversity, climate and management. While we have no influence on soil type and weather, we can influence species diversity, dominance and management. Expressed in dollars, the economic impact of such losses can be understood. The prevention of those losses, so much as is under our control amount to replacing diverse plantings on disturbed soil, protecting diversity where we can, increasing diversity where necessary, preventing disturbances and practicing careful management with responsible grazing.

Literature Cited

Conant, R.T., ed. 2010. Challenges and opportunities for carbon sequestration in grassland systems: A technical report on grassland management and climate change mitigation. Integrated Crop Management Vol. 9. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Plant Production and Protection Division.
Fornara, D.A., and D. Tilman. 2008. Plant functional composition influences rates of soil carbon and nitrogen accumulation. Journal of Ecology 96:2 pp 314-322. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2745.2007.01345.x Fornara, D.A., and D. Tilman. 2012. Soil carbon sequestration in prairie grasslands increased by chronic nitrogen addition. Ecology 93(9):2030-2036. https://doi.org/10.1890/12-0292.1
Hartmann, A. A., R. L. Barnard, S. Marhan, and P. A. Niklaus. 2013. Effects of drought and N-fertilization on N cycling in two grassland soils. Oecologia 171:705–17.
Hungate, Bruce A., Edward B. Barbier, Amy W. Ando, Samuel P. Marks, Peter B. Reich, Natasja van Gestel, David Tilman, Johannes M. H. Knops, David U. Hooper, Bradley J. Butterfield, Bradley J. Cardinale. 2017. The economic value of grassland species for carbon storage. Science Advances. Vol. 3, No. 4, 05 April 2017.
Janowiak, M., T. Ontl, and C. Swanston. 2017. Chapter 4: Carbon and land management. Pages 21-35 in Considering forest and grassland carbon in land management. USDA United States Forest Service. General Technical Report WO-95. June.
Jones and Donnelly. 2004. Carbon sequestration in temperate grassland ecosystems and the influence of management, climate and elevated CO2. New Phytologist. Volume164, Issue3. December 2004 Pages 423-439.
Kerlin, K. 2018, UCDavis. https://climatechange.ucdavis.edu/news/grasslands-more-reliable-carbon-sink-than-trees/ Mengistu and Mekuriaw. 2014. Challenges and opportunities for carbon sequestration in grassland system, a review. Ent J Engineering Environmental Resources 1 (1) 1-12.
Mosier, A. R., W. J. Parton, D. W. Valentine, D. S. Ojima, D. S. Schimel, and O. Heinemeyer. 1997. CH4 and N2O fluxes in the Colorado shortgrass steppe. 2. Long-term impact of land use change. Global Biogeochem Cycles 11:29–42.
McSherry, M.E., and M.E Ritchie. 2013. Effects of grazing on grassland soil carbon: a global review. Global Change Biology. 19(5): 1347–1357. Rice, C. W., T. C. Todd, J. L. Blair, T. Seastedt, R. A. Ramundo, and G. W. T. Wilson. 1998. Belowground biology and processes. Pp. 244–264. In A. K. Knapp, J. M. Briggs, D. C. Hartnett, and S. L. Collins (eds.). Konza Prairie Long-term Ecology Research. Oxford Press, New York, New York. Rice, C. W., A. B. Omay, C. J. Dell, M. A. Williams, and Y. Espinoza. 1999. Soil organic matter in grasslands: Response to climate and land management. Global change and terrestrial ecosystems. P. 44 In Focus 3 Conference on Food and Forestry: Global Change and Global Challenges. University of Reading, Reading, U.K., September 20–23, 1999.
Rosenzweig, Steven T., Michael A. Carson, Sara G. Baer, John M. Blair, 2016. Changes in soil properties, microbial biomass, and fluxes of C and N in soil following post-agricultural grassland restoration. Applied Soil Ecology. Volume 100, April 2016, Pages 186-194.
Spangler, L. 2011. Rangeland sequestration potential assessment. Final Report. U.S. Department of Energy National Energy Technology Laboratory. DOE Award Number: DE-FC26-05NT42587.
Wedin, D. A., and D. Tilman. 1990. Species Effects on Nitrogen Cycling: A Test with Perennial Grasses. Oecologia 84:433–441. Wilson, G. W., Rice, C. W., Rillig, M. C., Springer, A. & Hartnett, D. C. 2009 Soil aggregation and carbon sequestration are tightly correlated with the abundance of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi: results from long-term field experiments. Ecol. Lett. 12, 452–461.
Zhang, L., B. K. Wylie, L. Ji, T. G. Gilmanov, L. L. Tieszen, and D. M. Howard (2011), Upscaling carbon fluxes over the Great Plains grasslands: Sinks and sources, J. Geophys. Res., 116, G00J03, doi:10.1029/2010JG001504.

Addendum

These details indicate some of the main grasses of the sandhills and is courtesy of Dr. Sutherland, emeritus professor of botany at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

“The main overstory grasses are: Calamovilfa longifolia, sand reedgrass; Andropogon gerardii subsp. hallii, sand bluestem; Stipa comata (Hesperostipa comata), needle and thread (Sporobolus cryptandrus); sand dropseed; Eragrostis trichodes (sand lovegrass); and, Bouteloua curtipendula (sideoats grama)

“Main understory grasses: “Bouteloua gracilis (blue grama); Bouteloa hirsuta (hairy grama) in rougher spots. There is also at least one very common sedge in the understory: Carex heliophila (sunsedge).

“Important grasses for stabilizing blowouts would be: Muhlenbergia pungens (sand muhly); and, Redfeldia texuosa (blowout grass).”

Other prominent warm-season grasses, according to details in historic published articles, are:

Big Bluestem: “In the sandhills it is the most important of the native hay grasses, growing best on subirrigated meadows where the water table is 1.5 to 3 feet from the surface.” “...may be considered the king of our native hay and pasture grasses.”
Indian Grass: “...rather common in the sandhills area, both in the meadows and as rather isolated colonies in the uplands. … one of the most important of the native hay and pasture grasses.”
Switchgrass: “a high producer of good quality hay, abundant pasturage and an excellent erosion control grass, it is considered among the more valuable native grasses.”

A ‘B’-Word Brief About Beautiful Cherry County

James E. Ducey. June 18, 2020. A ‘B’-word brief about beautiful Cherry County. Grant County News 135(46): 4, 7.

B is a bestest letter to bestow upon Cherry County, a Nebraska space well beyond banal and a beacon that has beckoned many with beguiling features to behold and which cannot be belittled.

This biggest county in Nebraska has more than 3.8 million acres. Its beginnings and subsequent bibliography of prose represented by some of the best and most brilliant writers is beatific.

Back in history, brave warriors bareback on their best buckskins chased bunches of roaming buffalo at one time, using bows and arrows and bone tools to gather natural bounty for winter days when there would be blowing snow blizzards and brutally cold days. There were no buildings.

A land of many grasses beckoned. Brash men from Omaha and North Platte with bravado and a bunch of bucks began brazen efforts that brought Texas beeves to the broad plains of the sand hills, bursting forth a big beef industry. Boys on horses briskly brought big herds to begin a cattle business. Beneath many bluffs, the cowboys with big guns – some loaded with buckshot – rode broncs beside sheltered herds were bugs were boisterous and making every attempt to bite. Meals of bacon and beans came from skillets bright from burning boughs. There was no bunkhouse buffet.

Bullwhackers brought supplies that certainly included bacon and other grub basics for a bland diet.

Burly men with bold brio in local bars and brothels used bullets blasted from barrels of big guns to settle disputes, often after only moments of bickering. They cowboys were boisterous. It was no bother to have a burial beneath a hillside bounded with bunch grass.

Basics of grass and water brought hearty settlers and their belongings for a new beginning, often behind a buckboard or after riding behind the whistle blast of a locomotive driven by essential black nuggets. Often on a bowed and bridled horse burdened with packs of basic supplies, or while breaking a team to pull beyond a bunch of reins as the drover built up the movement to get to the place where they would maybe break some sod. There were families big or small. Perhaps, buried between the canvas and between the board slats what was decided to essential to their bundle of a new life, including some beautiful and notable bibelots.

Women in bonnets walked town boardwalks looking for provisions, perhaps including some warm bread or getting some fine beef from a butcher. Maybe a few shiny pennies were spent to buy a broadcloth to make a dress of special bright colors that could raise the family spirit on a dreary day when there was a basic realization that there would be better times.

Beneath blue sky bunches of country boys gathered at small burgs of board-built havens, wearing ballcaps and carrying bats and gloves. With big swings, bounds with much bravado could make it to each beckoning base.

Amidst the big or little hills and meadows, small boys chased after bugs in the farmyard. Cute little girls wore bonnets as they roamed the ranch yards. There was a whole bunch of land to discover. There was more than once occasion when a bouquet was plucked and taken home to mom in the kitchen.

Basically now in this most beautiful of counties there are many bright basics. Bovines abound and browse the bunches of grasses including the bluestems. Mother cows are within barbed wire spaces. Beefy bulls from the best of the cattle breeds are brought forth and then basically bought with some bucks at some local sale barn. Bouncy and growing are growing baby calves. Then there are the essentials of a branding by a dedicated bunch that includes cowboys and cow girls. Please notice that horses are so essential and their name may start with the letter B.

Bison still roam now even during blinding blizzards or days with blistering heat. Bucks wander and at times avoid a bullet shot. Cottontail bunnies with bravado jump around. Bobcats slink beneath bodacious skies.

During the bountiful season bales of hay get bound with twine by balers. There are bountiful crops of amber waves of grain beneath the basic covers of big rig trailers bouncing along Main street.

There is a bevy of birds including the bluebird and Bobolink, also notable the Brown Thrasher and Brown-headed Cowbird. Grackles can do their best to empty my bank account while eating incessantly at the bird seed buffet. Majestic Bald Eagle soar above and treasure their little ones nestled amidst brought to build their home place using twigs or sticks suited built one at a time atop big tree branches. Binoculars are beneficial to get a bead on a bittern or bland warbler among some bulrushes, as well as many other sorts of biota. When the Great Horned Owl hoots it is a voice of their necessity while the land is dark space where they hunt without being able to see. They listen to bits of sound before swooping down to snag a bit to eat to take back to their babies in a branchy nest nearby.

There are the endangered American Burying Beetle that belay an indication the and Blowout Penstemon are a beatific bit of flora in broad, wind-blown blowouts where particular bugs occur. Or perhaps a bellowing bull frog or Blandings Turtle blending within a wind-blown meadow. Butterflies fly. Even brownish bats echo. A couple of local two local buff bunnies appreciate a basic, local, bird seed buffet without any blandness near the bluebird shack.

It is basically a broad basis for another breeding season, associated with the basics of boundless beginnings well known by nature.

B-places could be the place to be? There is Berry Bridge at the broad Niobrara. Borman Bridge has its own birdly boughs. Ballards Marsh has its own basics of origins. Brownlee has unique chronicles for the black settlement when softballs games were bunches of boys and men running the bases and throwing friendly bards with bawdy back talk. Brush Creek is biologically important because of itty-bitty fish. Anybody can go to Anderson Bridge and see how the beaver have established a hefty mound of mud and branches. Boardman Creek is a reality of times back in time and still now. How about learning via some book or another about the Badger Lake post-office. Big Springs on the North Loup River has its own video broadcast. Bowring Ranch is a special ranch of basic Hereford history and has its own Sunday day when friendly times blossom. Besides there is the Boiling Spring – which also once had a post-office. Buckhorn Spring that bubbles forth beneath hardy pines that have their own bit of sway in the breezes. The buck deer that was the basis for the name is long gone but the reality of the time meant its loss meant its loss was believed and thus the bequeathal of the name. There is Big Creek. Boardman Creek is a basic reality of times and now. What does the name Dipping Vat Meadow belay? Don’t forget Old Baldy Hill where cerulean blue meets sandy brown even when winds are boisterous and seem to be a bit much. The story of Bartlett Richards and the Spade Ranch is a grand story that can be enjoyed by reading a book of many words.

A bailiwick might include bicycling along B Street, shopping a nearby business in the biggest city within the boundaries of the county.

Merritt Reservoir is a beachy blue place for a boat with the basics to build memories for a beautiful day. Besides, there is the basis to bring bait to get a beautiful blue-gill or big-mouth bass near the boat after a delish breakfast or brunch.

Biodiversity is basic in Cherry county. Bioreserves associated with the Niobrara Valley Preserve with its basic herds of big grazers. The broad McKelvie Division of the Nebraska National Forest could be a beginning to beckon a nightly backdrop of beautifully bright stars. Birch boughs along the Niobrara River in the valley bluffs are part of the botany. Breath deep amidst the balmy blowing breezes of many times. There have been billions of billowing clouds bourgeon during a building thunderstorm as they have for centuries.

Don’t forget, there is a bunch of bloviating being done associated with what may not be the best for Cherry County. Brisk is an appropriate word to broach. There are braggarts. Some are brusque, others bumptious, perhaps because of a bureaucracy of bumpkins. Enjoy without bliss and boffo this basic land that does not need to be further bolstered with no bosh. There is no need to burnish because the reality belays some of the bestest of earth!

The history of our beautilicious Cherry county is not blah-blah-blah. It is known and beloved and written about by a bunch of believers that have known brave ancestors and have a belief in sharing essentials of this broad and essentially beautiful place in the world. It is a big land of grass and blowouts and beef and beautiful grasses that nourish.

Phantasmagoric by golly.

14 July 2020

Chronology of Wind Turbines in the Sandhills and the R-Project

Compilation by James E. Ducey, Valentine, Nebraska. Initially prepared February 5, 2018; second version February 13th. Updated May 21, 2018, August 3rd, August 24th and then in late October. Also August and early December, 2019. Then June 2020.
This chronology conveys actions associated with wind turbine facilities and powerlines within the sand hill region during the past 20 years as developers have planned for turbine facilities and industrial powerlines as wanted by private companies, utility companies and regional power agencies. Some industrial wind turbine facilities have come to fruition, while others have not. The three primary turbine facilities currently are the Ainsworth Wind Facility, the Broken Bow turbines, and the Grande Prairie facility in northern Holt county. Additional turbine facilities occur further east at the edge of the hills, notably in Antelope county. Many actions have been taken by multiple people in regards to this issue. This chronology indicates some of the more significant and known actions. This compilation is not comprehensive but indicative.

1994

The Nebraska Public Power District (NPPD) board of directors agrees to provide funds for a pilot wind turbine project south of Ainsworth. Studies for the project were conducted in cooperation with KBR Rural Public Power, according to press reports.

1998

The NPPD board of directors agreed to contribute $652,000 for a pilot wind turbine facility near Ainsworth. Studies for the Ikenburg Hill project were conducted in cooperation with KBR Rural Public Power District at Ainsworth and Battelle Pacific Northwest Laboratories (March 19; Holt County Independent). The leased property for the project would comprise 8,300 acres.

2005

A newspaper article issued March 2, indicated that "Blades, Birds to Coexist on Wind Farm" at the Ainsworth wind facility, situated in the midst of the Central Flyway of significant species of migratory birds (March 2, 2005; Omaha World-Herald).

The 36-turbine Ainsworth Wind Facility south of Ainsworth as established by the Nebraska Public Power District became operational on September 15. This facility was indicated as being the "state's largest wind generation resource" The project cost approximately $2 million, with money also coming from a Department of Energy grant and from other power districts across Nebraska (March 19, 1998; Holt County Independent).

2007

Midwest Wind Energy LLC, confirmed that a 100-megawatt wind farm is in the works for Holt County. The project would cost $160 million (March 10, 2007; Omaha World-Herald). The company headquarters were in Chicago, IL. Midwest has formed Holt County Wind LLC to oversee the Nebraska wind farm.

Research was completed by people associated with a Cornell University research in 1996-1997, as hired by NPPD. The research project cost was $600,000, according to NPPD staff. Biologists of the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission assisted in determining prairie grouse lek locations. Results were issued in February, with an estimate that annual take would be 148 birds per year, as derived from a 4.10 bird take for each of the 36 turbines (December 2, 2007; Wildbirds Broadcasting). NPPD estimated that the annual take would be 2.49 bird fatalities per megawatt. There were 23 bird species documented as fatalities, with 41 species known to occur at the site of the facility. There were eight leks of either the Greater Prairie Chicken or Sharp-tailed Grouse known to be present at the site.

2009

Article issued on how Maxine and Ed Wehling fought the placement of a wind turbine facility on the West Table in western Custer county (April 3; Wildbirds Broadcasting). A MET tower had been installed by BP Energy but based primarily due to the ongoing occurrence of the Whooping Crane at playa wetlands in the area, the project was stopped. The couple documented the wetlands and their scattered distribution.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development office assisted Coble and Sons Ranch with a $14,725 grant for five Skystream wind turbines through a Renewable Energy/Energy Efficiency program (April 5, 2009; North Platte Bulletin).

During March 2009, a representative of British Petroleum Energy met with the Cherry County Planning Board to discuss wind energy development within the county.

2010

In January the Cherry County Board of Commissioners appointed individuals to evaluate the potential for wind energy development. The chairman of the Zoning Board also met with a representative of BP to discuss regulations.

On March 30, the county commissioners passed a motion to form a Cherry county wind energy committee.

On December 8, Cherry commissioner Jerry Adamson made a motion to appoint six men to the Cherry County Wind Advisory Committee. The motion carried.

On December 14, the Cherry County wind committee met at the county courthouse.

2011

The Cherry County wind committee met on February 8 with Pat Pope of NPPD. Pope provided directions to work with the Southwest Power Pool to facilitate transmission lines within the county that could be used to export electricity generated by turbine facilities.
UNL researchers initiate research with a primary objective to "assess behavioral, population, and/or wildlife community impacts of wind farm siting decisions with the aim of facilitating siting decisions that simultaneously maximize energy potential and ecological resilience," (March 17, 2011; Grant County News). "We want to develop indices to measures the long-term dynamics" related to wind turbine siting, Fontaine said, "and make decisions that are beneficial to everyone. We need to think about long-term implications before decisions are made."

Members of the Cherry County wind committee met on April 22 with three representatives from NPPD to discuss the development of wind turbine projects within the county. Four topics of particular discussion were: 1) indicate the potential for wind energy conversion systems; 2) need for transmission lines; 3) environmental aspects; and, 4) community support (from history of Cherry County Wind).

Non-profit Cherry County Wind LLC established in July. An initial meeting was held August 9. Records indicate that NPPD would be willing to move a proposed transmission line northward so it would be available to transport electricity from any Wind Energy Conversion System (WECS) within the county. During August, the group was actively working on "two areas of concern which include transmission lines and landowner association." Efforts to work with the SPP and NPPD were indicated as continuing to be underway in October.

Article issued October 27 indicating details for a proposed wind turbine development as submitted to the FAA by Eurus Energy America Corporation, of San Diego, California, for more than 50 wind turbines proposed for northeast Arthur county. There were two proposed key areas of development, and both of them would encompass about 37,000 acres. Hilltops were indicated places of placement near Baldy Valley and above Baldy Valley. Details were determined from application 201-WTE-65-OE, as available at the Federal Aviation Authority website (October 27, 2011; Grant County News). This is in the big hill country of the southern sandhills.

At a conference in Kearney on November 15-16, George Johnson of Cherry County Wind LLC gave a presentation on facilitating turbine facility development in the sand hills region, indicating that the group was started after the Cherry County commissioners asked several people to "develop policies to become the leading county in Nebraska for wind energy production." Committee goals were indicated as: "Strengthening and broadening the tax base; Being mindful of our wildlife resources; providing high quality employment; maintaining our quality of life" and "growing our economy."

In November the Cherry County Wind Advisory Committee announced that after 20 months of effort on "refining the plan for wind energy development" the Cherry County Wind Energy Association was incorporated and residents were asked to attend an informational meeting (November 16, 2011; Valentine Midland News). The first meeting was November 22 at Valentine and 70 people attended; then the next evening at Mullen with 60-70 people attending. The story also indicated the group had been working with NPPD, Omaha Public Power District (OPPD), Lincoln Electric System (LES), and the Southwest Power Pool "advocating for a new transmission line that will cross Cherry county," Matt Coble said. The association were "actively planning" a large wind development project in the county. The deadline for landowners to sign-up was December 15, with a $100 fee to become a member of the association (History of Cherry County Wind). Participants also indicated property where wind turbine facilities could be placed, via a contractual agreement.

2012

The Southwest Power Pool provided construction approval on January 31 for the R-Project, a 220 mile industrial powerline that would extend from the Gerald Gentleman Power station by Sutherland to the Western Area Power Administration 345,000 volt transmission line at the southeast corner of Holt county. The SPP has at least utility members in Arkansas, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska (Including NPPD, OPPD and LES), New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas utility companies.

In response to R-Project approval the following comments were made by George Johnson: "Approval of the r-plan is the important beginning of a unique and tremendous opportunity for economic development in Cherry County and across the State. We all know the wind blows here and that we can harness the energy. The challenge has been finding a way to ship the energy out. It's like Wyoming coal without railroads. With no way to export the energy, it's not worth much. The r-plan is the new railroad, which transmits electricity rather than carrying coal. We're on the verge of a very exciting time." Jerry Adamson said: "This project could possibly have the biggest positive impact on Cherry County as anything we've seen since the railroad system was built," according to a newspaper article.

2013

During January NPPD held six open houses were held on the R-Project. They were the first of three rounds of open houses, which would be followed by a public hearings along the route of the proposed powerline.

Approval given by Planning and Zoning Board of Cherry county to Bluestem Sandhills LLC to place 60 foot meteorological towers in Cherry county, that would be placed on the Pullman ranch (two), Rothleutner Ranch near Kilgore, and Bureau of Educational Lands and Funds property on the southern edge of the county along Highway 83 upon BELF land owned by the public, based upon a decision which involved no public comment. This initial intent for the towers was specifically reduced to fit within the confines of properties where industrial wild facilities could be built on participant properties.

2014

Details indicated on proposed wind turbine project in southeast Cherry county, north of Thedford, (May 15 article on Wildbirds Broadcasting). The proposal would comprise 147 turbines as derived from online Federal Aviation Authority records, as individually reviewed and evaluated. Information on turbine locations was later redacted, i.e., removed from the FAA website.

The ribbon-cutting ceremony for a single wind turbine built westerly of Valentine occurred on September 10. A power purchase agreement had been signed with the City of Valentine "in an effort to reduce overall electric rates for city customers" (History of Cherry County Wind). Subsequent details indicated the actual expense of this turbine to the Valentine power gird power purchasers.

On October 10, the Nebraska Power Review Board approves the construction of the R-Project (Omaha World-Herald article). The vote was 5-0 for approval; the article indicates there were six hours of testimony by project opponents.

Eight public hearings held by NPPD during November concerning the 225 mile R-Project industrial powerline, which had a projected cost of $350 million. The Southwest Power Pool would pay 90% of the project cost.

2015

Citizens gathered on Main Street prior to the July 19 public meeting at Valentine.

Final route alignment announce for the 345 kilovolt R-Project industrial powerline in late-January by NPPD. Requests for right-of-way entry were sent to 270 property owners along the proposed route at the time (January 26, 2015; Omaha World-Herald). NPPD expected to start acquiring 200-foot-wide easements in September in order to get construction underway.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service requested that the $361 million R-Project powerline be moved out of the Sandhills with NPPD responding that the route is final and it will not be changed (February 19, 2015; Omaha World-Herald).

2016

April 18 application by BSH Kilgore, LLC for a Conditional Use Permit to place 30 wind turbines south of Kilgore.

On April 19, a lawsuit was filed by Brush Creek Ranch LLC against NPPD challenging the right of the power company to access ranch property; hearing on motion held August 12, with the ranch losing the decision, and thus having to allow the utility company to access their property.

Letter to editor by LeRoy and Carolyn Semin about visit by George Johnson to their ranch on April 19th (May 11, 2016; Valentine Midland News). Then a May 18 letter to editor by Matt Coble about wind turbine development, as representing Cherry County Wind LLC in the same newspaper.

Cherry County Planning and Zoning Commission decision on May 23 that approval of a CUP for 30 turbines at a Kilgore wind turbine facility be postponed until a determination was made on whether the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, an adjacent landowner, had been properly informed.

Special meeting and public hearing held by Cherry county Planning and Zoning on July 19, 2016 regarding CUP 01-16 to allow the construction of a Wind Energy Conversion System development near Kilgore. Motion made to disapprove request was made; motion passed with cited reasons being that there was "no professional engineering stamp for the entire project" and also, because of a "large discrepancy in the decommissioning plan for costs," according to meeting minutes. Prior to the meeting being moved to the Valentine High School. Chairman George Johnson resigned due to an obvious conflict of interest. Opponents of wind turbines gathered to indicate their opposition to turbines, prior to the meeting where they conveyed their position on the public sidewalk of the county office building on north Main Street.

Preserve the Sandhills LLC publicly presented on August 4 a letter and brochure issued asking for public involvement and opposition to wind turbines. This occurred very soon after the group was formed by ranch wives in Cherry and Thomas counties.

Informational booth by Save the Sandhills and Preserve the Sandhills members at the Cherry county fair on Aug 12.

NPPD issues a statement from an agency spokes-person that a power transmission line (T Line) will not be built through Grant county, according to August 15 report by KNOP news of North Platte.

In August, a large Preserve the Sandhills banner prominently placed by Mike Young in the front window of Young's Western Wear on Main Street, Valentine. A member of Cherry County Wind states that placement of the sign would mean the loss of more than 50 customers for the business.

Informational meeting on wind energy development held at the Winter Building at Hyannis on August 15; a response to this meeting was issued as District 43 news by senator Al Davis on August 24 in regional newspapers.

Public letter issued August 22 by Cherry County Wind LLC promoting turbine development. Several letters to the editor on this topic were subsequently published in regional newspapers.

A flyer with the claim "A Brighter Future is on Our Horizon" was sent by area residents by Cherry County Wind LLC via postal mail, as received on September 29 at a Valentine mail box.

Franz Muller, Cody, letter to the editor published October 5 in the Valentine newspaper questioning the presentation on the "Comment Show" program of KVSH due to undisclosed conflict of interest due to a "bias" by commenters on September 16. Also indicated was that state senator Ken Schlitz of Ogallala provided promotional facts and figures supportive of wind turbine development. KVSH radio announced Mike Burge is secretary for Cherry County Wind LLC.

Public hearing held by Cherry county commissioners on October 11 on proposed changes to zoning regulations.

The October 26 hearing by the county commissioners on the BSH Kilgore POSTPONED due to failure to provide proper notification of meeting, as required by regulations; new date scheduled for November 16.

Forum on renewable energy sponsored by Center for Rural Affairs on October 27 at the Peppermill restaurant, at Valentine.

Grande Prairie wind turbine facility in Holt county, owned by Berkshire Hathaway Energy, became operational during October, with 200 turbines northeast of O'Neill, Nebr. Many of the turbines were placed within an extensive area with center-pivots that water cropland.

Soup supper and fund-raising auction held November 15 by Preserve the Sandhills at the Cowpoke in Thedford.

Letter to editor by Sheldon Otto in the November 30 O'Neill newspaper states: "Warren Buffet said it and the president of Berkshire Hathaway Energy acknowledged it at a zoning meeting. 'There would be no wind turbines if it weren't for the tax incentives.'"

Public hearing by Cherry county commissioners on CUP 01-16 held December 7, at the Valentine High School, with more than 100 people present; the hearing had been POSTPONED twice due to an improper notification notice; several opponents to wind turbines gathered at the court house prior to the meeting, according to comments heard at the hearing.

On December 19 the application for CUP 01-16 (Kilgore project) was denied by Cherry County commissioners Mark Adamson and Tanya Storer; commissioner Van Winkle did not attend. A prominent problem was the newspaper-reported revision in the number of turbines which might be constructed at the project site - they would be taller but fewer in number.

On December 27 the Cherry county commissioners enacted a six-month suspension was enacted on wind turbines CUP applications within the county; with Planning and Zoning tasked to prepare a report on three items: 1) health effects, 2) fire suppression, and 3) property values.

2017

Testimony given at Zoning Board meeting on January 3 given by Keith and Vicki May about the extent of noise at their residence 1.3 miles from the nearest turbine of the Grande Prairie wind facility north of O'Neill, which extends across a reported 50,000 acres.

Construction was expected to have been started on the R-Project in January, according to NPPD's initial expectations.

Public hearing held March 1 on Legislative Bill 504 in the state capitol at Lincoln by the Natural Resources Committee, of the Nebraska legislature. Numerous sandhill residents attended and presented testimony. During the highway trip back to the heart of the sandhills. It was a situation where "boots versus suits" as indicative of visual comparison of garb between power industry representatives and ranch county citizens that presented testimony at the hearing.

Advertisement by Preserve the Sandhills printed on March 22nd advocating that turbines be banned in the sandhills, and stating a "call to action" (Valentine Midlands News).

Bird surveys done by J.E. Ducey on April 12 and May 10 along the corridor of the proposed R-Project powerline with detailed reports issued on Wildbirds Broadcasting blog, notably for locales in southern Holt county. Effort funded by Preserve the Sandhills LLC.

Article issued by J.E. Ducey regarding how a University of Nebraska-Lincoln study on the behavior of Greater Prairie-Chicken at the Ainsworth Wind Turbine Facility was found to be deficient (April 24, Wildbirds Broadcasting blog).

At the May 2 meeting of the Zoning Board, whiteboard list of items of concern/consideration was presented at the monthly meeting by a member of the board; comments given by Ducey on deficient UNL study on the effects of wind turbines on Greater Prairie-Chicken.

Document dated May 10 submitted to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers asking for a "nationwide permit" that would allow the minimal fill of wetlands during construction of the r-project. The claim was made that less than 0.50 acres of Waters of the United States would be filled.

A draft environmental impact statement for the r-project issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in May. A draft habitat conservation plan became available at the same time.

Initial details presented on June 6 on Planning Commission Review of Cherry County Commissioner request for the group to address specific items of concern as requested by commissioners.

Letter dated July 10 submitted by Carolyn Semin asking the Cherry county Zoning Board for clarification on items concerning wind turbines as discussed at their most recent meeting.

At July 21 meeting of the Zoning board, Jim Ducey commented on obvious violations of Open Meetings Act, notably not allowing public comment, not providing a copy of distributed material to the public, and concerns about not having a sign-in sheet, which is a courtesy, not a legal requirement; attendee Ducey indicated that a civil suit could be subsequently filed.

On July 17 Robert Harms of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was not allowed to attend a private meeting at Thedford because of complaints made by NPPD. Meeting occurred anyway. NPPD representatives were asked to leave and they eventually left after four requests. People subsequently arriving saw pictures being taken of cars and their license plates.

A July 25 letter to editor by Dr. Brent Steffen in Kearney Hub and other regional newspapers concerning "government by the people" in regards to July 17 meeting action and the R-Project.

On August 2, senator Dan Hughes (Nebraska Legislature District 44) comments supportive of R-Project indicating it was requested by Southwest Power Pool, published in the McCook newspaper.

On August 18, Dr. Brent L. Steffen issued additional comments in the McCook newspaper about how Sen. Hughes is misinformed on the R-Project.

A multipage document titled "Sandhills Challenges, Sandhills Solutions" received via postal mail on August 22 as sent by Cherry County Wind LLC.

Meeting scheduled by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service during the month at Thedford was summarily POSTPONED.

Nebraska senator Tom Brewer (district 43) met with representatives of NPPD and OPPD on August 23. At meeting, NPPD indicated they had 71% of the landowner easements needed to construct the r-project; also that the company did not care if wind turbines were ever built because of the availability of the r-project transmission line.

Public hearing on LR 125 held at Lincoln on September 22 (news accounts in Lincoln and Omaha newspapers).

Letter to editor by Brent Steffen about the need for a world-class attraction in the sandhills, and sarcastically referring to wind turbines (September 23, 2017; Kearney Hub).

October 6 version of weekly comment column issued in different newspaper by senator Tom Brewer stating that wind energy is not "Nebraska Nice" and which included the verbiage that "wind energy is a scam that hurts people and animals, wastes billions in tax dollars and isn't green by any definition of the term."

October 7 letter to editor by Jim Foral in Lincoln newspaper on how sand hill residents are right to fight the r-project.
On October 11 numerous landowners met at the Thedford fairgrounds despite previously scheduled public hearing on the R-Project by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service being POSTPONED until October 25.

An October 17, letter to editor in North Platte newspaper by Dr. Steffen on how "R-Project exemplifies overreach".

On October 19 Preserve the Sandhills and Save the Sandhills issued a ten page educational insert in regional publications.

During late October an updated abstract/memorandum of agreement between Cherry County Wind LLC and involved property owners were filed as legal documents in the county deeds office. The term of the agreement was indicated as forty years.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service held a public hearing on October 25 at Thedford in regard to the R-Project, with about one hundred people present with testimony restricted to three minutes and the meeting having been ended after two hours. An additional hearing was held at Burwell.

Senator Tom Brewer wrote weekly update column dated October 27, after attending the FWS hearing at Thedford on the r-project.
Thomas Kent, chief operating officer of NPPD, claimed Steffen comments as previously published were not accurate in a letter to the editor as issued October 28 (North Platte Telegraph).

Capitol view column by J.L. Schmidt and Paul Fell political satire cartoon on the R-Project issued November 1 in regional newspapers.

Close of public comment period on November 7 for draft EIS regarding the R-Project, after an extended comment period because of requests by concerned residents, citizens and representatives.

On November 7 the Planning and Zoning Commission approved changes to the zoning regulations regarding setback distance, noise levels and turbine blade flicker with a vote of 6-2. Recommendations submitted to county commissioners.

Private meeting held November 18 at Valentine to discuss possible actions to oppose wind turbines in the county.

Presentation given at Cherry county commissioner meeting on November 28 meeting on a peer-reviewed report on "infrasound from wind turbines" as discussed by Ryan T. Callahan.

Privately issued on December 1 was a revised list of land-owners that have a memorandum of agreement to allow wind turbine development on their property, as determined by county public records.

During the month, a revised indication of wind turbine placement near Kilgore became available online as associated with the Federal Aviation Authority.

County commissioner requested zoning board report on three topics presented by Albert Ericksen to the county commissioners on December 12.

2018

Public hearing on changes in zoning regulations scheduled by county commissioners for January 17; meeting held then hearing date postponed to February 7 due to failure to inform municipalities (i.e., Wood Lake, Kilgore, Cody, Merriman; zoning regulations section 11.02.03) as conveyed by Carolyn Semin during meeting on January 9.

Letter to editor on January 10 by Bob Stetter conveying the need for a "SOS" or Save Our Sandhills action (Valentine Midland News).

Full-page advertisement by Preserve the Sandhills urging that people attend the public hearing on proposed changes in the zoning regulations; published in the regional Pioneer Advertiser et al.

Private meeting held January 24 to discuss actions to ban turbines within Cherry county, with effort initiated to repeal and replace sections of the zoning regulations.

Initial digital map of Cherry County Wind investor stake-holders provided on January 27, with additional key details indicated. Investor lands, et al., derived from official county records and other sources. Map subsequently revised in March.

Tony Baker, the legislative aide for Senator Tom Brewer stated during a radio interview on January 30 that LB 1054 might help ensure that "wind turbine developers will be better neighbors." Than subsequently he stated "put wind turbines away from people" as personally heard on Twister radio in the morning.

Advertisement in January 31 issue indicating numerous people - including area residents and others - opposed to development of wind turbine facilities within the sandhills region (Valentine Midland News).

Public hearing held on legislative bill 1054 at the Nebraska Legislature at Lincoln on February 1. The legislation would remove wind energy developments from the definition as a privately developed renewable energy facility and require that the public be allowed to comment at hearings of the Nebraska Power Review Board. The bill effort failed.

Commissioners hearing held February 7 at Valentine High School regarding changes proposed for the Cherry county zoning regulations, regarding most essentially setback distances, noise levels and turbine flicker. At least 150 people, as well as county officials were present at the Valentine High School. Testimony was presented by 44 individuals, with 30 of them in favor of the proposed changes as submitted by the Planning and Zoning Board. There were prominent comments made by both groups that were diametrically different, using disparate sources. The decision was 2-1 against acceptance of the recommendations (only Tonya Storer voted against the motion to reject the recommendations), since there was no second for the motion, so no group vote actually occurred.

Application submitted to interim zoning administrator during mid-afternoon on February 8 to the interim county zoning administrator requesting that most of the section 613 regulations be repealed, and then replaced with language that would prohibit the placement of commercial/industrial wind energy conversion systems; also to limit agricultural district towers (windmills, wind chargers, or wind turbine) to less than 80 feet. The request included more than 300 signatures of land-owners within Cherry county. The agenda item was not addressed at the March meeting since the meeting was cancelled due to weather. It was then not considered at the May meeting, being pushed back to the next regularly scheduled meeting.

On February 22, Gary Folk published a letter to the editor in the Grant County News indicating opposition to industrial wind turbines and that any wind energy development should be associated with smaller units suited to a ranch (also subsequently issued in the Valentine, North Platte and Omaha newspapers). Steve Moreland in his Soapweed Soliloquy column expressed that industrial wind turbines should not be built in the Sandhills.

Willard Hollopeter conveyed an opposition to industrial wind turbines and high-voltage powerlines during his morning Heritage Trail commentary on February 27, as spoken on KVSH radio, Valentine.

Request for a public referendum vote on wind turbines presented February 27 by Cleve Trimble to the county commissioners. The commissioners took no action (commissioner meeting minutes; article in the Grant County News).

Letter to editor on February 28 by Janet Parkhurst on the need for compromise on the wind turbine issue. Imposition of a limit of 300 words or less on any subsequent letters to the editor on this issue (Valentine Midland News).

The first installment of a four-part missive on wind turbines, regulations, and county official involvement was issued online by Carolyn Semin, a west Kilgore resident, on April 19th.

Public forum for candidates for Cherry county commissioner held at Valentine, on April 19th. Candidates James B. Ward and Michael C. Young both specifically indicated their opposition to having wind turbines built within the county. Also present were candidates Harold Osgood and Tanya Storer (article subsequently issued in the Grant County News).

Carolyn Semin presented details of her financial research findings at the April 24 county commissioner meeting. More than 60 residents were present. She indicated that county funds were spent to promote wind energy and industrial powerline development in Cherry county, totaling $13,188.04, notably in 2011. There were there subsequent speakers conveying their opinions and perspectives during the public comment period; most of them were opposed to industrial wind turbines and powerlines. A county resident planned to ask state officials to require an audit. Radio reporter Craig Andresen, commissioner Tanya Storer and Carolyn Semin spoke on this topic on the Twister radio stations the next morning, during the Free Speech Zone program.

During the public comment period at the May 8 meeting of the Cherry County commissioners, Carolyn Semin asked when the commissioners would address the use of county funds. According to rules of order, the motion tabled at the previous commissioner meeting should have been addressed. Jim Ducey asked than an independent audit be conducted to get a completely accurate indication of any and all amounts paid by the county in association with facilitating development of industrial wind turbines. The three commissioners eventually rejected any effort by them to account for the documented spending of public funds. Carolyn Semin responded June 12, 2018 to comments previously made by Van WInkle and DeNaeyer; none of the commissioners responded to her scathing commentary of 15 minutes. It should be noted that video recordings are made at the commissioner meetings, so her response was based upon the words said as derived from a video, not any actual written transcript.

At the June 5th meeting the Cherry county planning and zoning board set July 11 as the date for the public hearing regarding proposed changes to the county zoning regulations. There would be seven items considered and which are the same items rejected by the county commissioners in February.

Meeting held on June 19 at the Lincoln County Historical Museum to discuss aspects of the r-project. Based upon a list of attendees, it seemed to be a discussion of how the powerline would impact the setting where wagon ruts associated with mid-1800s pioneer caravans to the west continue to be obvious on the prairie landscape?

An article titled "wind turbines will change ecological dynamics in Sandhills, but could add economic incentive" as authored by Teresa Clark was published in the Tri-State Livestock News with a date of June 20 for the online version of the article. People quoted in the article included Carolyn Semin and Tony Baker.

Following the approval for the placement of 35 powerline locations south and easterly of Thedford by the Federal Aviation Administration, and article by Ducey indicating the threat for the use of eminent domain by NPPD was issued June 21 on the front-page of the Grant County News. The applications approved were apparently the first associated with the r-project.

On July 11 public hearings held by Cherry county planning and zoning in regards to seven proposed changes to the zoning regulations. Every proposed changed was approved by the zoning board, and which would then be submitted to the Cherry County Commissioners. At this meeting copies for the Conditional Use Permit permit for BSH Kilgore was provided to the county officials. Based upon details learned at the Aug 31 meeting of the county commissioners, the applicant provided the nicely bound, full-color copies of the 470 page document for each member of P&Z.

On July 19 a request was filed by William Weller, and the fee paid requesting that the definition for industrial use in the Cherry county zoning regulations be revised to include WECS facilities with turbines exceeding 100 feet of height above ground level be classified as an industrial use. The request included that a change be made so commercial/utility classification be revised to industrial throughout the regulations.

July 25: multiple anti-wind residents of the Platte valley and Sand Hills gathered at North Platte to convey their opposition to the R-Project. The majority of attendees were opposed to the industrial power-line project, according to reports. News articles were subsequent, including the North Platte Telegraph and Omaha World-Herald. The meeting started at 6 p.m. and was scheduled to end at 9 p.m. but continued until just after 11 p.m.

The weekly legislative update by Sen. Tom Brewer discussed the North Platte meeting and distinctly conveyed his opposition to the r-project and disgust with NPPD. This indicative missive was published in multiple regional newspapers.

A July 31 editorial by the Omaha World-Herald editorial staff conveyed that the r-project should avoid recognized historical sites, specifically referring to sites with historic wagon trail ruts in the Platte River valley.

During these days, there was an audit underway to determine participants associated with the payment of Cherry county funds which might have been associated with initial wind turbine development in Cherry county. The legal auditor was helped by a few county residents.

In association with an expected increase in highway traffic associated with the Nebraska Star Party at Merritt reservoir, a Preserve the Sandhills banner was placed at the gate into the Mcsky Ranch of Mike and Sheila Young on Highway 97 on August 2nd. On the 3rd, it took two hours and about $100 for Mike Young and myself to place two banners on the Young parcel just south of Valentine along the same highway, indicating opposition to turbines as a message from god, for example. Craig Miles - having showed up to talk anti-wind strategy - helped for a bit of time, but was essential in holding up a piece of plywood till is was anchored in place by appropriate size screws. A big change was from using red paint to instead using bright red, reflective tape, which was a good decision as it was much easier to place on the banner. The signs were provided by Cleve Trimble. Additional signage was placed along the Highway 97 route to the event campground.

Request by William Weller to reclassify commercial/utility turbines to an industrial use was presented to zoning board members during the August 7 meeting during the public comment period as it had not been placed on the agenda. The request had been filed on July 19.

Dave Hamilton and Bree DeNaeyer on how the r-project would alleviate risk and discussed economic benefits in an August 14 letter to the editor in North Platte Telegraph. Amy Ballagh wrote a detailed email response indicating multiple "issues" about the letter to the editor.

Cleve Trimble discussed the wind turbine issue in Cherry county including how the commissioners have not taken action on a referendum on the issue. A letter to the editor on August 15 in the Valentine Midland News. Trimble also placed an advertisement about NDDP's abuse of power in regards to the r-project.

Craig Andresen referred to NPPD as a dancing puppet and members of Cherry County Wind as squawking parrots in regards to the r-project as discussed in August 21 letter to the editor in the North Platte Telegraph.

During a series of public hearings held August 21 the Cherry County Commissioners approved only one of eight proposed changes regarding wind turbines. The eight proposals had been previously approved by the county zoning board. The proposed changes were:

This change was approved.
Amendment of zoning regulations of participating property lines (other than right angle corners) to non-participating property line in section 613. This was approved by the two commissioners present.
The following amendments for the zoning regulations were not approved as the vote on each was 1 in favor and 1 not in favor.
* diameter plus applicable building setback to one mile in section 613
* setback of 1/2 mile for non-participating to two-miles for non-participant under the WECS for a dwelling
* diameter plus applicable building setback to three times total tower height
* diameter plus applicable building setbacks to three times total tower height for other rights of way
* diameter plus applicable building setbacks to one mile under the WECS for public conservation areas including wildlife management areas and state recreation areas
* the special safety and design standards on no more than 30 hours per year of shadow flicker to be no WECS shall cast a shadow flicker on any public road
* no commercial/utility WECS shall exceed 50 dba at the nearest structure occupied by humans to no commercial/utility WECS shall exceed 35 dba at nearest non-participating dwelling

There were about 75 people present during the hearings in the Cherry county court room. There is some question if the hearings were legal as there may have been no notification to municipalities within the county.

NPPD indicates they will have to be allowed to trespass on the Brush Creek Ranch south of Thedford to conduct a cultural resource survey. The utility company threatened legal actions so they could gain access associated with the r-project. An attorney for Dan and Barb Welch indicated that any hirelings could not encroach upon the ranch as cattle breeding season was underway and disturbance had to be avoided (August 23 Grant County News 134(4): 1).

Email submitted by Jim Ducey on August 24 to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Harms and Hines in Nebraska Field office) asking that they require that BSH Kilgore address the following items for the turbine facility proposed southwest of Kilgore.

  1. Require the preparation of an environmental impact study that would evaluate cultural and historical resources, species of concern and other associated details.
  2. Require a review pertaining to the need/no need for an incidental take permit associated with the Whooping Crane. The project site is well within the migratory corridor of this wild bird.
  3. Require a review pertaining to the need/no need for an incidental take permit associated with the American Burying Beetle. There has been a previous report that this species occurs at the project site.
  4. Address any potential concerns associated with the Bald and Golden Eagle Act. Bald eagles are known to nest in the nearby vicinity of the project site.
  5. Address concerns associated with the illegal “taking” of migratory birds as associated with the Migratory Bird Treaty Act; this would include any taking during construction or project operation. What limitations should occur to avoid destruction of bird nests and/or eggs, as well as young. What mitigation efforts should be required for the wild birds and bats that will certainly be killed by spinning turbine blades?
Followup email to FWS sent the first week of October. The email response eventually received during the month said there would be no action by the FWS until the project developer made a particular request for review.

Weekly legislative comment issued August 30 by Sen. Tom Brewer refers to the hiring of a lobbyist by NPPD to promote the r-project; also refers to the Whooping Crane and the need for an incidental take review. Issued in the North Platte Telegraph and other newspapers of the region.

Letter to the editor by Mic and Mel Coffman on how the r-project is a significant threat to the continued existence of the endangered Whooping Crane due to the potential for collisions with the industrial powerline (September 2, 2018; North Platte Telegraph).

Editorial sketch drawn September 4th by Valentine artist in regards to seeming greed of some Cherry county ranchers.

Six-page "press release" titled "Say No to the R-Project Transmission Line!" released September 17th by Dave Hutchinson (Hutchison Organic Ranch, Bassett) discussing scenic values, American Burying Beetle, Whooping Crane and related topics. Document distributed via email.

Letter mailed September 26th to Cherry county commissioners indicating an obvious conflict of interest on their voting on proposed wind turbine facilities or related zoning regulations. Prepared by attorney Jason M. Bruno for Preserve the Sandhills. No obvious response yet in early November.

Jeff Payne, Berlin, PA wrote about the scenic values of the sandhills and how he and his friends enjoy visiting and hunting prairie chickens as they have since 1999. Pointedly indicated his opposition to wind turbines and how they have ruined natural landscapes in the county where he lives (October 3, 2018; letter to editor in Valentine Midland News).

Letter regarding lack of notification for August 21 public hearings sent to Cherry county zoning administrator, county attorney and commissioners by Kilgore, Cody and Nenzel representatives. Letter dated October 12, 2018. The commissioners on October 30 asked county attorney Eric Scott to investigate the situation and determine whether or not letters had been properly sent.

Wildbirds Broadcasting blog post indicated FWS communications associated with the NPPD proposed American Burying Beetle mitigation site near Brewster, Blaine County. Details were received via email on October 17 and dvd on November 1, following an initial FOIA request date of July 30, 2018.

Cherry county Planning and Zoning Board meeting scheduled for November 6 set to address proposed change to section 613 zoning regulations as submitted in February by Wayne Eatinger. This request was tabled until the next meeting.

On December 4th, a decision on the request made by Wayne Eatinger and another by William Weller were both tabled by the Planning and Zoning Board of Cherry County. The Weller request would revise to industrial the "commercial/utility" classification for wind turbines. At this meeting additional testimony was allowed on the Eatinger with additional comments made on the Weller request.

During the month of December, NPPD released an eight-page flyer on the "R-Project - Ensuring Reliable Electricity for Nebraskans" with items on reliable service, restoration, reasons for the powerline routing, delivering reliable energy, Southwest Power Pool, supposed benefits and species and habitat protection.

On December 31 in the Kearney Hub a letter to the editor by Dr. Brent Steffen provided comments on the r-project flyer. His point was that NPPD was ignoring science and the public. Items he addressed included how wind energy development would devastate the sandhills, lack of suitably addressing potential impacts to whooping cranes, misleading presentation of the public meeting process, availability of alternate routes and NPPD acting as a minion of the Southwest Power Pool. This letter was also in the North Platte Telegraph and Grant County News, et al.

2019

Article on January 11, 2019 that NPPD had awarded a construction contract for the r-project transmission line. The amount was for $265 million to Forbes Brothers Timberline Construction. NPPD claimed that the incidental take permit associated with the American Burying Beetle would be received in about three months.

On January 15th both the Wayne Eatinger and William Weller amendments were approved by the Cherry County Planning and Zoning Board. Two map graphics were shown. One indicated how industrial wind turbine placement would have a devastating impact on the county viewscape. The second map indicated vast tract of county property where the owners did not want industrial wind turbines, as well as other indications of pertinent
land categories. This information had not been previously presented to the public.

Comments against the r-project by Judy Rath and indicating the importance of involvement by Nebraska senator Tom Brewer issued in January 21 article in the Lincoln Journal Star.

On January 29th the the recommendations by the Planning and Zoning Board on the Eatinger and Weller amendments was not accepted by the Cherry County Commissioners that voted to return them to the Board. The basis was that supportive information was not provided as required by state law.

Public hearing on Legislative Bill 373 held in Lincoln. The bill, introduced by Sen. Tom Brewer of District 43, would require counties to regulate the placement, noise and decommissioning of industrial wind turbines; for a two year period there would be a 3-mile setback for non participatory residents to allow counties to develop zoning regulations. It was once again boots vs. suits, according to news reports: residents want to prevent destruction of the sandhills while economic development is the mantra of developers.
- - - - -

On February 8th, NPPD issued the final environmental impact statement for the r-project. Documents were provided for a public inspection period, with no comments to be accepted.

In March, Nebraska senator Tom Brewer visited the Department of Interior office in Washington, D.C. to discuss the need for NPPD to do an incidental take review for the Whooping Crane in association with the proposed r-project powerline. Nebraska representative Adrian Smith also attended.

The "Eatinger amendment" for Cherry county zoning regulations was rejected April 30 by county commissioners on the basis that it would be "mob rule" and it would be illegal to completely ban something and perhaps result in the county being sued. The request had been to ban industrial wind turbines more than 80 feet in height. The "Weller amendment" was returned to Planning and Zoning for them to evaluate changing Commercial/Utility to Industrial for wind turbine classification. It was a contentious meeting due to oleaginous behavior of a county commissioner.

"During public testimony James Ducey presented a map which visually depicted the opinions on wind energy development of landowners throughout Cherry County and then when asked by the Board to allow them to create a readable version of that submission Mr. Ducey refused to submit a readable version of the map which had been shown in an open meeting of a public body. The version Mr. Ducey did submit is illegible." County commissioner meeting minutes; May 8, 2019; Valentine Midland News 47(50): 10.

On May 13, 44 Nebraska legislators voted Yea for final approval of LB 155, which addresses the use of eminent domain to construct feeder powerlines for industrial wind turbine facilities and which recognized unique natural features of the sandhills.

During June there were a few letters to the editor on the BSH Kilgore project.

On June 4th Cherry Planning and Zoning voted to recommend approval of CUP for BSH Kilgore project. They voted to approve a "phantom" motion so no actual motion of record was available. It was to be submitted later by a hired consultant who did not do so and then passed away.

Nebraska senator Tom Brewer received notification that NPPD had received incidental take permit that would allow it to build the r-project powerline (letter dated June 20 from the senator's office). The incidental take permit for the American burying beetle was issued June 12th by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

District court judge Mark Kozisek issues a temporary injunction that would not allow two Cherry County commissioners to vote on the BSH Kilgore CUP application due to potential conflict of interest. Decision made after court action on July 15 in O'Neill where the court room was reportedly packed with people in favor of the injunction.

At the same time a federal suit was filed in Denver against the Fish and Wildlife Service. "The agency, the suit continues, brushed aside potential impacts on historic sites and dismissed threats to endangered whooping cranes and other birds posed by both the power line and the wind farms it would enable." U.S. District Judge Robert E. Blackburn will preside over the suit, filed by the Oregon-California Trails Association, the Western Nebraska Resources Council and the Hanging H and Whitetail Farms ranches between Paxton and Sutherland.

Public hearing on BSH Kilgore CUP application scheduled for July 16 postponed due to temporary injunction imposed by district court judge after a hearing at O'Neill.

Randy Peterson detailed the materials needed to construct a single industrial wind turbine and specifics on transportation requirements in a letter to the editor (July 2, 2019; Valentine Midland News 48(6): 12).

District court judge removed temporary injunction against two Cherry County commissioners regarding potential conflict of interest if voting on BSH Kilgore project (article August 15 in Omaha World-Herald by Reece Ristau). Findings issued August 8th.

Editorial by Omaha World-Herald staff issued August 17th indicating the need for the Nebraska legislature to evaluate conflict of interest concerns defined by law as a result of activities associated with the BSH Kilgore project.

Nebraska senator Tom Brewer and staff left Lincoln to attend the meeting of the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. He presented information indicating why the agency should rescind a favorable endorsement of approval for the r-project. A primary reason indicated was potential impacts on the endangered Whooping Crane along with details indicating the route approved by the state Power Review Board does not match the final indicated route for the industrial powerline. Further consideration of these matters is to be given at the October meeting of the commission.

On August 30th additional legal action undertaken by Preserve the Sandhills and a Cherry county rancher to address the concern over perceived conflict of interest on county commissioners making decisions to approve an industrial wind turbine project near Kilgore when family members could financially benefit. A hearing in county court was set for September 20.

Letter to editor by Bruce Kennedy, Malcolm, commenting that sandhills should be preserved as a grassland using methods similar to those used in the Flint Hills (September 4, 2019; Valentine Midland News 48(15): 12).

Cherry county commissioners voted October 15th to approve conditional use permit for BSH Kilgore project once 12 specific conditions were suitably met (Grant County News 135(13): 1, 3.)

Center for Biological Diversity files a brief November 14th as a friend of court in lawsuit against U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service regarding the whooping crane and potential impacts if r-project powerline is built. Other parties involved were the International Crane Foundation, American Bird Conservancy and National Audubon Society.

On November 16th a contractor crew for NPPD and the r-project trespassed and destroyed property on the Haake Ranch along the southern edge of Holt county (article November 28, 2019 in Grant County News included details on health threats on Haake place and Welch ranch south of Thedford). NPPD later sent an apologetic letter to Ronald and Marlene Haake and the legislative aide for sen. Brewer met with NPPD to discuss the issue and which included a notice that the legislator would request Nebraska attorney general action if such an event occurred again (December 5, 2019; Grant County News 135(19): 1).

District judge Mark Kozisek ruled November 26th that county commissioners and representatives associated with development of the proposed Kilgore industrial wind turbine facility had to comply with request by Preserve the Sandhills LLC and Charlene Reiser-McCormick asking for discovery regarding actions associated with facility actions (December 5, 2019; Grant County News 135(19): 1). Pertinent information had to be provided by the end of December.

Filing made in Cherry county district court on November 29th requesting that approval of the conditional use permit for the BSH Kilgore industrial wind turbine project be revoked and that commissioners "temporarily and permanently restrain and enjoin the applicants from taking any and all acts upon or in furtherance" of the CUP. There were 90 specific items associated with the filing by Preserve the Sandhills and Charlene Reiser-McCormick versus Cherry County Nebraska, Cherry County board of commissioners, BSH Kilgore LLC, Cherry County Wind LLC, and Bluestem Sandhills LLC (December 12, 2019; Grant County News 135(20): _.

2020

On a 2 to 1 vote Cherry County commissioners approve an extension to October 15, 2024 for the BSH Kilgore conditional use permit. (June 17, 2020; Valentine Midland News 40(4): 6.) The company claimed that legal actions and efforts to obtain aa power agreement with the Southwest Power Pool as the basis for active work necessary to keep the CUP application active.

Incidental take permit for American burying beetle associated with the R-Project revoked by a federal court judge on June 17th. Reasons given for the revocation were the following as indicated in the court filing.

“Having bushwhacked for weeks through this thicket, the Court finds, for the reasons explained below, that a large number of Petitioners’ challenges are without merit. The Court agrees with Petitioners, however, as to the following:
“* the Service inadequately considered the effects of the R-Project on the O’Fallon’s Bluff segment of the Oregon and California Trail;
“* the Service unlawfully excluded potential wind turbine development in Antelope County, Nebraska, from its analysis (an error which infects various other analyses under the ESA, NEPA, and the NHPA); and
“* one portion of a “programmatic agreement” entered into to address NHPA matters is arbitrary and capricious, at least on this record.
“As a consequence, the Court will set aside the Service’s decision to grant the June 12, 2019 incidental take permit, meaning said permit will be vacated.”

06 July 2020

Deplorable State Agency Response to Proposed Federal Refuge Regulation Changes

This is the response by the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission to management regulations changes proposed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for national wildlife refuges, primarily in the sandhills of Nebraska. Comments prepared by James E. Ducey of Valentine on June 17, 2020.
June 5, 2020 dated response signed by Tim McCoy, deputy director of NGPC as provided to the federal service and personally obtained via an email request to the state agency.

“To whom it may concern,

“The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission (Commission) is pleased to support the additional hunting and fishing opportunities that will be available to our constituents on our beautiful National Wildlife Refuges in Nebraska. We are strongly supportive of the proposed changes for hunting and fishing opportunities on Crescent Lake, North Platte, John and Louise Seier, Valentine and Fort Niobrara National Wildlife Refuges.

“We are very pleased to see expansion of youth seasons where appropriate, and the addition of some “youth only” opportunities as well. We also are very supportive of the refuge regulation changes that align with Nebraska hunting and fishing regulations. These changes will simplify regulations on the hunting and fishing public by making them simpler and more consistent across refuges and other federal and state public lands. We also appreciate the opportunity to provide input and suggestions on potential and proposed changes, and are very pleased with the results of those communications with our valued federal partners that manage the refuges.

“Hunting and fishing are important to Nebraskans and also are a big part of our tourism industry. The changes proposed will add opportunities for hunting and angling on refuges that will be enjoyed by resident and non-resident constituents shared by the Commission and our federal partners. The National Wildlife Refuges in Nebraska, where only 3% of the land is publicly owned, are absolute treasures to our constituents. We applaud the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service for considerations to open up more public hunting and fishing while also simplifying regulations and aligning them with ours. These changes will help us protect the time-honored traditions of hunting and fishing enjoyed by so many of our residents, and without harming the original intent of the refuges.

“President Theodore Roosevelt, a great hunter and passionate conservationist, is credited with starting the National Wildlife Refuge system in 1903. He saw a need to protect wild places, with high-quality habitats and abundant wildlife populations, for the benefit and enjoyment of the public. However, he also was a proponent of wise and regulated use of our natural resources, including our game species. We believe Mr. Roosevelt would be pleased with these proposed changes, and would agree that they do not interfere in any way with the statutory purposes of the refuges. Hunting and fishing on these properties will not have negative impacts on the properties, their habitats, bird nesting and reproduction or wildlife populations.

“These proposed changes are in alignment with the mission of the National Wildlife Refuge System (https://www.fws.gov/refuges/about/), which is “to administer a national network of lands and waters for the conservation, management and, where appropriate, restoration of the fish, wildlife and plant resources and their habitats within the United States for the benefit of present and future generations of Americans.” On the website, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service also states the following about the National Wildlife Refuges: “Wildlife conservation drives everything on wildlife refuges, from the purposes for which each refuge was established, to the recreational activities offered, to the resource management tools used.”

“The “North American Model of Conservation” involves users contributing to wildlife management through excise taxes on firearms and ammunition sales through the Wildlife and Sportfish Restoration Program (WSFR). Increased hunting opportunities on our National Wildlife Refuges will help support wildlife management and conservation. As well, these changes will help support Recruitment, Retention and Reactivation (R3) efforts to reduce declining hunter numbers. The Commission has been a leader in R3 efforts in the state and nationally, trying to increase opportunities and improve satisfaction among the hunting and fishing public. We feel strongly that these expanded opportunities on National Wildlife Refuges will provide benefits to “R3”. We also believe the expansion of opportunities for more public use of refuges will increase constituent support for the value of conservation both on refuges and for conservation on private and public lands beyond refuge boundaries.

“The Commission annually produces a “Public Access Atlas” that includes all publicly-available hunting and fishing access opportunities across the state. This includes all seven of Nebraska’s National Wildlife Refuges. When these new changes are approved, the Commission would be more than willing to work with local or regional U.S. Fish and Wildlife Staff to promote them in the Public Access Atlas and provide website links to appropriate information.

“We appreciate the work and effort by the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service and Refuge Staff in bringing forward these hunting and fishing opportunities and aligning regulations for the public. We also look forward to continuing to work with the Service and Refuge staff to explore additional opportunities.”

Comments by Ducey

This letter conveys a deplorable response by a state agency which is responsible for management of all fish and wildlife species in the state for all residents, not just a select group of people that fish and hunt. Instead there is a complete agreement to increase hunting and fishing, obviously so the agency could sell more licenses, in one particular reason.

The agency could not even provide a detailed analysis and review to the proposal, and instead relied on a trite written response to the proposals by the federales. The concept of refuge is wrongly ignored.

For the agency to make a false claim that “We believe Mr. Roosevelt would be pleased with these proposed changes” shows a complete disrespect for the legacy of this man. There is absolutely no reason that such an absurd statement should be made, never, ever!

NGPC wants wild places conserved so hunters can hunt and kill more animals, in my opinion.

And this statement “When these new changes are approved” indicates that the agency is indifferent to any contrary public comments as the regulations will be approved by the USFWS despite notable opposition to the proposed regulatory changes.

As for the agency to support an exploration of “additional opportunities” indicates that the NGPC would like to see how additional taking of fish and wildlife species might occur. This is indicative of the current, ongoing assault on native fish and wildlife – notably wildbirds – being done, most notably by the federal officials.

Valentine National Wildlife Refuge - Comments on Proposal to Revise Area Management Regulations

April 14, 2020. Email sent to three staff of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, including Steve Hicks, project leader.

Valentine NWR was established decades ago in the 1930s for the conservation and management of migratory birds and other wildlife. It was not established so taking can occur associated with killing hunts. It is supposed to be a refuge. The proposed change in regulations is a direct attack on the purpose for refuge establishment and continues a trending diminution of the value of these lands for many essential natural resources.

Preferential regulations seem to be more important to the USFWS than the need to make certain that native flora and fauna continue to occur now and into the future for many generations of enthusiasts of the outdoor sandhills.

Conservation of wildlife should be the primary goal so any decision to increase the taking of wildbirds and furbearers needs to be vehemently opposed. This is a decision that should be derived from local conditions, not the spewing of national statistics as indicated in the federal government documents done by federales that do not even reside in Nebraska making forceful decisions. Quit dealing in the need for shootists to wreak death to native wildlife.

Draft Compatibility Determination for Recreational Hunting

Sustainable management and recreational hunting are two sordid twists in language being used by so-called staff responsible for management while promoting a single intent purpose.

“Refuge Purpose(s): The refuge was established by Executive Order No. 7142, August 14, 1935, “... reserved and set apart ... as a refuge and breeding ground for migratory birds and other wildlife.”

Refuge is not a concept. It is the reality as firmly established when the government pushed to acquire multiple private ranch properties for an indicated purpose. It was not created to provide a place where hunting is a primary promotion.

“This plan proposes to open or expand existing migratory bird hunting from 2,721 acres to 28,918 acres.” [page 1]

How was the proposed increase in acres of area of intent determined? How the need determined? Why was not the entire refuge opened? What were the criteria? No information is given on how this was done with public input. It is very noticeable that most of the areas to be opened are readily accessible highways or improved road, thus making access the easiest of many places. Let them hunt, you will not even have to walk very far. Just stop on the road, hop out and shoot!

“Small Game, Upland Game Bird, and Big Game Hunting Plan” [page 1]

Where is this document, apparently issued in 2019, available? What were the USFWS actions to make certain the public was aware of this plan? How was it implemented? This is public information which should be readily available upon request.

“The NWRSAA mandates” [page 2]

So a national federal bureaucrat decides and local USFWS staff just respond to conform to the demand. Any recent decision is superseded by the original documents that indicate the reason why the refuge was established. The original intent is what is most important and essential to direct management efforts.

“Public Review and Comment:” [page 3]

There have been no public meetings on this matter. The public was given only 22 days to deal with the issued documentation. Also, the USFWS has already issued their pending decision in the Federal Register as of April 8. How sordid that the agency cannot wait until comments were received from the public and suitably considered. This whole effort is a perfect example of federales shoving a decision upon the people of the sandhills and area community that enjoy natural resources without taking by hunting.
“Justification: Based on the anticipated biological impacts above and in the Environmental Assessment, it is determined that hunting of resident game and migratory birds on the refuge will not interfere with the wildlife or habitat goals and objectives or purposes for which the refuge was established.”

How was this determination made based upon facts? Not interference! Interference will occur because of the taking by shootists intent on killing wild life for their so-called sport and all of its associated disturbances. Changes with hugely interfere? Present the facts not opinion. Because one dead snipe interferes with its life. Same for waterfowl and prairie chickens. Let the birds die seems to be a mantra of the USFWS. Protection of the refuge birds should reign supreme on a refuge created for their protection.

This document indicates a preference to allow killing of so many special birds!

Draft Environmental Assessment for Small Game, Upland Game Bird and Big Game Hunting

Please explain how a refuge prepared a document because a refuge does not know how to write? This is the attribution indicated on the title page. Who is responsible for the words? Project leader without any attribution is also not suitably proper! Please explain this obvious lack of a local name!

“1.1 Proposed Action The Service is proposing to expand hunting opportunities across the Valentine National Wildlife Refuge (NWR). The refuge consists of 72,350 acres total (67,828 open for hunting, 2,721 open to waterfowl hunting, 1,801 closed to hunting [see Figure 1]).” [page 3]

Why is the majority of a national refuge proposed to not be not a refuge? Is there not a limitation of place where wildlife can be taken. Refuge indicates safety. To think that this is actually a refuge is erroneous in multiple ways. Some many birds can appreciate a haven but the managing federales agency has decided that shootists will have their way so they can kill and kill anytime during a “season”, but of course they say it is being done in accordance with state regulations.

“Hunting would be expanded for upland game, big game, and migratory birds on the refuge in accordance with the 1999 Valentine NWR Comprehensive Conservation Plan (CCP).”

These are details from that plan.


“Hunting Objective:
“Provide quality hunting opportunities for waterfowl, deer, prairie grouse, pheasants, dove, and coyote on portions of the Refuge. Limited controlled hunting opportunities for elk will be available if elk are reintroduced to the Refuge.”
“Waterfowl hunting is permitted only in the Watts, Rice, and Duck Lakes areas of the Refuge according to the State's seasons and limits. No counts were made, but it is estimated that about 75 visits were made by duck hunters.
“The Refuge is open to hunting of sharp-tailed grouse and prairie chickens during the State set season that runs from mid-September through December. The Refuge is a popular place for out- of-state, as well as Nebraska, hunters to pursue prairie grouse. Grouse hunters are surveyed via wing collection boxes placed around the Refuge. In 1997, 258 hunter days were recorded through the collection boxes. However, not all hunters participate in the voluntary collection program.
“The Refuge is also open to pheasant hunting during the State set season that runs from the first weekend of November through the end of January. Pheasant hunters made an estimated 100 visits to the Refuge in 1997. This is a large number of hunters considering that bird numbers remain very low.”

There is no indication in the wrongly directed guiding document during historic times that hunting would be permissible for rail, snipe and woodcock. How about partridge? Where are the facts?

Rail occur very rarely in the multitude of bird occurrence report at this publicly owned refuge. Will shootists be allowed to kill King Rail, which are very rare on this land space? Why is that an agency which conveys a mission statement to conserve wildlife resources for citizens of our nation and state is pushing forth a missive of destruction? Virginia Rail, which are regulars on this refuge land, are now facing a visit that can lead to their destruction. How about the ultra rare Black Rail. The same applies to Wilson’s Snipe!

As for the American Woodcock, there is no known record for this species at VNWR. Yet the federal documents issued indicate a season should be opened. Where is the basis of real occurrence for this species’ conservation instead of some decision being made to allow them to be shot? Obviously a decision is being made to kill a rare or phantom species of no known occurrence.

“The primary non-consumptive public use areas of the refuge remain within the Little Hay Wildlife Drive, Fire Tower overlook, and Refuge Kiosks.” [page 7]

How is a kiosk a “non-comsumptive public use” since it is signage. Associated ground is maybe an acre or two.

“We expect the harvest of each of these species to be between 0 to 2 animals per season given the limited suitable habitat or low population numbers within the refuge hunt area. This level of harvest should not have negative effects on the local or the statewide populations of these species.” [table 1]

Rare occurrence is conveyed by findings yet hunters would be allowed to kill any of them during a sanctioned season.

“Given the low number of northern bobwhite quail and gray partridge on the refuge, the number of hunters pursuing these species would be low (less than ten hunters). Incidental take of these birds while hunting other upland game would be estimated at less than one daily bag limit for these species for the year (less than six and less than three, respectively)." [page 13]

What is the population of the so-called "northern bobwhite quail" as derived from facts? Is this some new subspecies that you are indicating as occuring. Having following bird taxonomy for decades, this is a faux indication not based in a reality. There are a very few known occurrences for the area of specificity based upon my bird database for the region. Yet the agency will allow the very few numbers to be killed by shootists.

There is no known record for Gray Partridge in the Valentine Lake District. Yet the regs of some inane fedarales want to open a season. There is absolutely no basis for any decision regarding this species.

“Refuge staff would work in close cooperation with the NGPC in sharing/evaluating/discussing available population and harvest data, making recommendations for regulation changes, and any other actions necessary to ensure that viable populations of resident birds are supported.” [page 13]

How and when and by whom? This is a vague statement with no indication of any reality of agreement or expectation to meet the stated intent.

It needs to be noted that the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission will most likely be supportive of the regulation revisions because they could probably sell more hunting licenses as the state agency can convey there will be a notable increase in hunting opportunities.

“Harvest


The estimated harvest during the 2017/2018 season was lower compared with the five-year average. Mink, raccoon, and opossum showed the greatest decrease (down 64 percent, 36 percent, and 20 percent, respectively). Coyote, muskrat, and bobcat showed an increase compared to the five-year average (up 27 percent, 10 percent, and 7 percent respectively).” [page 14]

What is the basis for these estimated details? Facts are given but there is no attribution. Does it pertain to the world, or maybe just Nebraska, but it is blatantly obvious it does not apply to VNWR since no site specific details are given. Estimates do not suffice.

“Regulated harvest through hunting and trapping seasons is an important management tool needed to control populations and damage that these species can cause.” [page 14]

Has there been any documented damage due to any of these species at VNWR? Indicate the local facts. Estimates convey nothing of any reality.

“Areas of the refuge open to hunting would be increased by about 26,000 acres. Under this alternative, approximately 40 percent of the refuge would be open to hunting with 60 percent of the refuge closed to hunting. The latter would provide 40,000 acres of the refuge where migratory waterfowl would continue to be protected from any hunting pressure and disturbance. This complies with provisions of the refuge’s establishing legislation.” [page 15]

The establishing legislation indicated that the entire refuge be a haven for birds. Now there is an effort to reduce that extent by a rather significant amount. It is absurd how federales twist language. The entire refuge is an inviolate place no matter what some perp in Washington decides. Indicate the language in the original "establishing legislation" that proves it was establishing for any sort of hunting related reason!

“We expect that the harvest of American crows and woodcock would be between zero and two birds due to low interest from hunters (in the case of crows) and low population numbers (in the case of woodcocks). For coots, sora and Virginia rails, common snipe, and American woodcock, we expect that the harvest would be less than the bag limit for each species (15, 10, 8, and 3, respectively).” [page 16]

These are expectations of delusion. The USFWS has no information to provide actual facts whether or not there is even a huntable population. There is no record known that American Woodcock have ever been seen at VNWR.

“Additional hunting opportunities would disperse hunters over a larger portion of the refuge and provide enhanced hunting opportunities. We anticipate that there would be only a small increase in the number of hunters visiting the refuge (two or fewer additional hunters) due to the low population density of north-central Nebraska and abundant public hunting land near the refuge.“ [page 16]

Another statement based upon conjecture not fact. Spread the hunters upon more refuge lands and that means further impacts. Anticipate is an opinion not fact.

“We anticipate minor to moderate beneficial impacts with respect to slight declines in predators of many non-game species; and increased exposure to outdoor experiences that potentially would include observations and educational opportunities related to non-game species.” [page 17]

Anticipation does not convey any sort of reality, but is a vague word being used to promote an agenda. Predators of nongame species? What are they? Perhaps there are predators of non-game species but the given language is tepid at best. The killing of predators will in no way increase the exposure to outdoor experiences. More worthless verbiage. Kill some species and then indicate how that is beneficial to outdoor experiences. Have you heard of the term "balance of nature"?

“Impacts of hunting on listed species, especially using the refuge from September through February, could increase with increased hunting opportunities under the proposed action. However, we would apply mitigation measures mentioned above under this alternative and expect to limit the effects of hunting to acceptable risk levels (minor).” [page 19]

What would be the mitigation measures? When would they be implemented? By whom?

Why wasn’t the very important and iconic Blandings Turtle considered in the EA? More road traffic when the turtles are traveling across the land during autumn movements to find a winter haven might result in greater mortality by these critters getting crushed beneath truck or car wheels. Any lack of consideration for this species is indicative on how this EA is lacking.

“The refuge would continue to engage in habitat management activities during the hunting season to ensure that the refuge meets its other management objective...” [page 25]

What are the management activities that occur during the hunting season? Please indicate the specifics.

“Expanded hunting opportunities could provide improved benefits to the local, regional, and state economy compared to current conditions.” [page 26]

What is the basis for this statement that is given as a fact? This statement needs to be based upon real data not opinion.

“The Service believes that hunting on the refuge would not add significantly to the cumulative impacts of migratory bird management on local, regional, or Central Flyway populations because the percentage likely to be taken on the refuge, though possibly additive to existing hunting takes, would be a very small fraction of the estimated populations.” [page 30]

No decisions should be based upon beliefs. The reality is how the change in regulations will impact local populations which are essential for the overall populations so details need to be specific to VNWR.

Why isn’t the Trumpeter Swan not being considered in the EA? A great expanse of wetland which should be suitable for this species. Few of them are known to occur. This is a species of concern which deserves attention as is has for decades. Will an increase in hunting possibly result in mistaken identity and subsequent deaths? This is an important item which has seemingly been ignored.

Summary

The planned implementation of the indicated regulatory changes is some misdirected missive not based upon any sort of reality and needs to be rejected, now. Make decisions based upon facts not delusional and preferential political actions. The natural resources need to be Number One in importance! There is not even any real indication how management changes might be adapted to nurture populations that will be impacted by further, so supposedly regulated killing. There will be several months during each year when wildlife will be chased so they can be killed for so-called sport.

That a decision has basically already been made with a readily apparent biased view does not respect the input of the public in the process. Any legal maneuver on a federal level should not occur until there is proper consideration given to any public comments. As federales, the USFWS is trampling on the resource and very ready to ignore public comment. There was not even any consideration given to postpone any decisions until a public meeting is properly held at a later time because of this troubling pandemic.

It is very obvious that the measures to be enacted will not be beneficial to the refuge and the reasons for which it was established. For the service to claim it is being done for the sustainability of wildlife populations is a bunch of bureaucratic propaganda. This is simply a ploy to benefit a single group, shootists, some who are like fleas on a hound, pests both not welcomed and not wanted. The preferential attention and consideration being given shows how prejudice is blatantly obvious.

Some associated with a federal whatever service are not focused on sustainable conservation management but will open more lands to the taking of wildlife from refuges that myriads of conservationists consider to be havens for all sorts of flora and fauna. The FWS is absconding the public trust in changing the regulations and simply should not have any role in caring for refuges because of their ignoring the inviolate mandate to ensure an essential resource legacy of all American citizens.