|Group showcases area habitat|
|December 08, 2011 Jerry Purvis|
Bead Mountain in southeast Scotts Bluff County is owned and operated by Platte River Basin Environments (PRBE) and Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.
For some 27 years, Platte River Basin Environments (PRBE) has been working with numerous partners to preserve and restore the area’s native habitat.
PRBE President Hod Kosman spoke before the Gering Business Club last week about the group’s work in preserving and enhancing the local area for tourism and recreational activities.
“What got us started was a bequest to the Nature Conservancy from the estate of Clive Ostenberg,” Kosman said. “Clive wanted the monies to stay in the local area, but there was no venue to manage them. So we had to find projects that would fit the scope and purpose of the bequest.”
PRBE then sought out other similar groups, such as Pheasants Forever and Ducks Unlimited, and state agencies such as the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission and the Nebraska Environmental Trust. “We began to tell them the story of this unique area and the need to preserve them for future generations,” Kosman said.
The group also contracted with local farmers and ranchers to manage their farmland and grassland resources.
Starting with the Kiowa Wetlands south of Morrill, PRBE and its partners have impacted more than 50,000 acres in western Nebraska, and 30,000 of those are currently open to the public.
The group had a part in helping to increase the local elk population, as well as re-introducing bighorn sheep to the area, after an almost 100 year absence.
Recently, PRBE has proposed a major expansion of the Wildcat Hills Nature Center. An architectural design has been developed and the group is currently talking with partners and government officials about funding the construction.
“We’ve planned the place to have 8,000 square feet for most displays,” Kosman said.
“The original center was built before some major paleontological finds were discovered in the area. Some of the species of prehistoric mammals discovered in the hills were previously unknown.”
Paleontologists from the University of Nebraska spent several summers excavating the area during the time the highway was being expanded through the Wildcat Hills. They found seven new species never before discovered. They later said the area was “the most significant small mammal excavation in North America.”
Management and preservation of the area’s native habitat also helps the local tourism industry. Kosman said he’s hosted a number of groups who come from across the nation to hunt deer, ducks and wild turkey. Many of these groups also give financial support to the preservation effort.