Mitigation Dollars at Work in Nebraska
When permanent impacts to habitat, those anticipated to persist and cannot be restored within the life of the project, occur due to wind farm construction, mitigation may be requested.
Direct Impacts permanently remove habitat that could be used by wildlife or other species. This includes habitat lost through the construction of wind turbine and building pads, roads, and other infrastructure.
Indirect Impacts occur when wildlife use and biodiversity of an area is reduced due to the development and/or operation of wind turbines.
If mitigation is recommended for a wind energy development, there are a number of options for off-setting the ecological impacts of development. The most suitable option will depend on the nature and extent of the impacts. Mitigation dollars will be used to offset impacts to the habitat type impacted.
Mitigation habitat generally should be:
- Of like kind (e.g., tallgrass prairie for tallgrass prairie);
- In the same geographical and ecological region as the impacted habitat, but at least 5 miles from wind energy facilities;
- 3. Of equal or higher quality habitat than the impacted area OR land that can be restored to equal or higher quality habitat.
Ideally, the mitigation habitat will be under threat from development or conversion that would degrade or decrease habitat, either imminently or likely within the next 25 years.
Below is an example of mitigation dollars at work in Nebraska. The articles were provided to the Nebraska Wind Energy and Wildlife Project by the Nebraska Land Trust.
By: Nebraska Land TrustThe grassland was also fundamental in funding the easement purchase. As part of the Prairie Breeze Wind Energy Project in nearby Boone and Antelope Counties, the developers agreed to provide funding to the NLT for an easement that protected habitat for grassland wildlife and bats. With its riparian woodlands and native prairie, the land was an ideal site to achieve this goal.
While in college, Gary and Laura Marshall fell in love with 261 acres on the Niobrara River in Boyd County. So much so that they purchased the land at a time in life when many of their peers had yet purchased their first car. Nearly 40 years later, they worked with the Nebraska Land Trust (NLT) to protect it forever through a conservation easement that was completed last November. Standing on a bluff overlooking the land with expansive views up and down the valley, it is easy to see why. A carpet of grassland stretches toward a riverbank lined with woodlands and wetlands. Beneath the grass and trees, there is a human story to tell.
In 1858 the Ponca Tribe signed a treaty with the U.S. government ceding the rights to their land in exchange for a reservation on the Niobrara River. The Ponca Agency was constructed in 1859 and a portion of the agency was located on the Marshall property, which lasted until 1865 when the tribe moved to the mouth of Niobrara. The site was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2005 and offers a wealth of information about the Ponca Tribe's transition to reservation life. The conservation easement will continue the Marshall's legacy of preserving the site's integrity so that it remains an important archeological resource.
According to Laura, "We chose a conservation easement with the Nebraska Land Trust as it is important to us to preserve and protect the historical significance as well as the native rangeland while our sons and their families are able to continue using this property in the same manner as we have in the past." Gary added, "We greatly appreciate all of the work that the Nebraska Land Trust did to make this a reality." The integrity of the historic site and grasslands have been protected by the Marshalls use of the land for grazing, which will continue. Permanent protection of grasslands is important for wildlife and cattle in this part of the state, where grassland has been increasingly converted to cropland, especially when the price of corn is high.
The grassland was also fundamental in funding the easement's purchase. As part of the Prairie Breeze Wind Energy Project in nearby Boone and Antelope Counties, the developers agreed to provide funding to the NLT for an easement that protected habitat for grassland wildlife and bats. With its riparian woodlands and native prairie, the land was an ideal site to achieve this goal. Additional funding has also been provided for grassland restoration and enhancement on the property. Thanks to Laura and Gary Marshall and their family, a long-running love affair with the land will continue to flourish for generations to come.
By: Nebraska Land TrustConservation of the prairie was also made possible by funding from the Steele Flats Wind Project, cooperation from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Nebraska Game & Parks Commission, and the Nebraska Land Trust. As a result, an all-too-rare piece of Nebraska's vanishing prairie heritage is now forever protected.
Bob Robart grew up in Norfolk, Nebraska in the 1960's with a multitude of hunting and fishing opportunities." I retained that focus through a move to Lincoln for college and a decision to remain there to raise a family with my wife Cheryl," he explains. That focus led to the purchase of land near Unadilla in the 1980's, where the Robarts developed a commitment to conservation and enhancement of wildlife habitat.
Primarily because of population encroachment, this land was sold in 2010 but the desire to make a difference was still strong and the following year Bob and Cheryl had an opportunity to buy a tallgrass prairie in Jefferson County. It is in a unique part of Nebraska called the Sandstone Prairies' region, because a shallow underlying shelf of sandstone made it problematic to plow so much of the area has been utilized for grazing and thereby maintained as prairie.
In early 2014, Bob and Cheryl said, "It became evident that our lifelong commitment to conservation could be enhanced by placing a conservation easement on this beautiful piece of original tallgrass prairie."
Conservation of the prairie was also made possible by funding from the Steele Flats Wind Project, cooperation from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Nebraska Game & Parks Commission, and the Nebraska Land Trust. As a result, an all-too-rare piece of Nebraska's vanishing prairie heritage is now forever protected.
Cultural sites, prairie, woods, and creeks are preserved for learning on the Hosford Farm
Laredo Ridge Wind Project helps to make preservation possible
By: Dave Sands, Executive Director of Nebraska Land TrustThis financial barrier began to fall in 2010, when the Laredo Ridge Wind Project offered the Nebraska Land Trust (NLT) funding to help pay for a conservation easement to offset habitat loss from their wind farm near Petersburg.
It was a quintessential spring day in Boone County, when the Albion-Petersburg second grade were welcomed by Paul and Lori Hosford, who host an annual field trip to their farm near Albion. These visits have become an Albion tradition for the past eight years, appreciated by kids, teachers, and parents alike. With its woodlands, pasture and a meandering stretch of Beaver Creek, one might naturally assume that students had come to learn about nature. While they no doubt appreciated the outdoor classroom, this visit would focus on the Native Americans who once lived there and left pieces of their culture behind.
For more than 125 years, the Hosford's ancestors have carefully preserved cultural sites that are scattered across the 546-acre farm. In places, visitors can still see where an earth lodge once stood. Over many years, artifacts have been found which Paul uses to teach about the people who hunted and farmed along the Beaver Creek, before his family did the same. The kids listen intently as he tells family stories about the Omaha Indians who continued to visit the farm, even after his ancestors had settled there.
Mindful of the legacy that had been passed down to them, Paul, his wife Lori, and his brother Gregg had been considering permanent preservation for many years. However, there are costs to putting an easement in place, including a donation to the permanent Stewardship Fund which endows a land trust's ability to sustain preservation.
This financial barrier began to fall in 2010, when the Laredo Ridge Wind Project offered the Nebraska Land Trust (NLT) funding to help pay for a conservation easement to offset habitat loss from their wind farm near Petersburg. The funds would cover the endowment, transaction costs, and a portion of the easement's value, so in the spring of 2011, the NLT ran a request for proposals in the Albion News and convened a small group of local people to help choose.
The choice was easy once the Hosford family showed interest. The farm, its resources, and its educational value were known by all and the family offered to donate most of the easement's value. To preserve resources, the agreement prevents the conversion of woodlands to cropland, which has been increasing across the state, and it preserves cultural sites that could easily be farmed over, along with 10 acres of prairie.
Allowances in the agreement are as notable as the restrictions, as they allow for future possibilities like aquaculture, a winery, bed and breakfast, interpretive signs, and walking trails. In addition, funds from the Laredo Ridge Wind Project have been set aside for restoration of a brome pasture to tallgrass prairie, to further enhance the educational experience.
Paul sums it all up by explaining, "It is... our place now, claimed with our forbearer's sweat and grief, sacrifice and determination. But do we understand that by settling this land it is now our 'place' -- our responsibility to protect it, to hold it as dear as every people before us? Do we understand that the color of one's skin doesn't matter? In displacing the Native Americans we have taken on an ancient obligation to forever care for this land."
Perspectives: A guest column by Paul Hosford
Reprinted from the December 7, 2011 Albion NewsRegular readers of this column may recall that our farms have a considerable Native American history. So special was this land, that members of the Omaha tribe visited it regularly for many years after white settlement.
As the current landowners, Lori and I, along with my brother Gregg, feel we have a responsibility to preserve the sites if we don't, who will? So when the opportunity arose last spring to work with the Nebraska Land Trust, we leapt at it.
We have been giving tours of our land to school groups for eight years now and have noticed that for some kids this is their first introduction to the outdoors. So, we have been wanting to restore native grasses in our pasture. That way, our young people would not only have the Olson Nature Preserve (ONP), but a second "extended classroom" for learning about the nature and history of the area. (We made a donation to the Albion Education Foundation to help pay expenses involved with bringing kids to our farm.)
As part of the conservation and preservation process, we're also working with the Prairie Plains Resource Institute in Aurora, the same group that manages the ONP, on a plan to re-establish native plants starting next year. This will be part of their new Ribbons of Prairie project, an effort to restore native prairie in small parcels across the state.
Central to everything is seeing that the cultural sites, re-established prairie and existing woodland habitat on our property are protected so they can be used for learning, bird watching and even hunting and fishing, even if someday our family no longer owns the land. And, since the Native American sites and habitat are spread across all four of our farms, we've included all of our land in the easement.
This doesn't reduce our property taxes, and it doesn't take any land out of production agriculture. But, it does set a course to the future by specifying what can and can't be done. If we ever decide to grow wine grapes, develop walking trails, or even farm fish, that's all allowed. But this will be done in a way that preserves the valuable historical and natural features.
Because we're setting restrictions on future generations, some may complain we're "ruling from the grave." But we have a responsibility to the future, and this is the best way we know how to fulfill it.