Comment period for Ponca/Niobrara Land Protection Plan extended

Due to public interest, the comment period for the Ponca/Niobrara Land Protection Plan has been extended to Sept. 30.

To increase conservation efforts and recreational opportunities along the Missouri River, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and National Park Service (NPS) are proposing to work in partnership with willing landowners and local communities. Please see additional information that is attached.
Interested members of the public are invited to come and visit with FWS and NPS staff who will be available to answer questions and discuss the proposal at the following dates and locations:
Tuesday, Aug. 20
9 a.m.-noon
25414 Park Avenue
Niobrara Village Council Room
Niobrara, NE
Tuesday, Aug. 20

1:30-5 p.m.

100 East Main Street
Spencer Village Office
Spencer, NE
Wednesday, Aug. 21

10 a.m.-2 p.m.

Vermillion Public Library Conference Room
18 Church Street

Vermillion

Tuesday, Aug. 27

9 a.m.-noon

Blue Moon Resort
518th Avenue
Verdel, NE

Answers to frequently asked questions by landowners:

Can the Government take my land?

No. The NPS and FWS cannot use condemnation (eminent domain) to get lands for the project. Lands will either be purchased from willing landowners or will enter into an agreement with landowners, called an easement, putting a layer of protection on the land.

Is my land eligible for an easement – or sale to the government?

Maybe. Your land may or may not be eligible. Only 140,000 (10 percent) of the approximately 1.4 million acres within the project boundary can enter the program. NPS and FWS are going to be highly selective in accepting offered acreages. The land has to be special. It must be either historically/culturally significant, important wildlife habitat, have great potential for public access, or is in some other way important for conservation purposes.

Is tax money being used – and if not, where is the money coming from?

No. Tax money is not being used for this project. This project will primarily be funded by money specifically designated for conservation efforts (Land and Water Conservation Fund) and Duck Stamps.

Will I still own the land after an easement is purchased?

Yes. If a landowner enters into an easement, the landowner will still own the land. There is a one-time easement payment made. The owner will continue to pay real estate taxes.

Will I have to allow public access if I agree to an easement?

No. You do not have to allow public access. There are different levels of protection varying from public access to no access. However, easements do not allow for certain development or row crop production. The easement is attached to the land. If the land is sold, the easement continues with the new owner.

To summarize, NPS and FWS are not seeking huge expanses of land to add to the park or refuge system. We are looking for gems, small pieces of exceptional property that should be kept perfect for generations to come. The public comment period has been extended to Sept. 30. We truly welcome the passionate public input concerning this project. It reflects the love people have for this area and their willingness to preserve it.

For more information contact:
Wayne Nelson-Stastny – Phone: (605) 660-5349 or e-mail: Wayne_NelsonStastny@fws.gov

Steve Thede – Phone: (605) 665-0209 or e-mail: Steve_Thede@nps.gov

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