The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission approved fee increases for its state park entry permits at its meeting Aug. 4 in Valentine.
The fee for the annual permit for Nebraska-licensed vehicles will increase from $30 to $35 and a temporary (daily) permit from $6 to $7 beginning Jan. 1, 2024. That approval activated an increase in permit fees for vehicles licensed outside of Nebraska. Those annual permits increased from $60 to $70, with the daily permit increasing from $12 to $14.
The duplicate permit will go from $15 to $17.50 for Nebraska-licensed vehicles and $30 to $35 for vehicles licensed outside of Nebraska.
Of the 38 states that have resident annual state park entry permits, only six have fees lowers than Nebraska’s.
The commissioners also authorized one lottery and one auction permit for a 2024 bighorn sheep hunting season, which will be Dec. 3-22.
Commissioners approved an application period for a bighorn management hunt which will allow for a management hunt application period separate from a regular sheep hunt application period, if such a hunt is recommended in the future.
If a bighorn sheep management season were approved in the future, it would be for Nebraska residents only, and the application period would begin 60 days before the opening of the management season and last 14 days. Management hunts would only be approved to manage the health and sustainability of a bighorn herd.
In other business, commissioners approved:
- a recommendation to apply for a 2023 Recreational Trails Program grant to enhance the entrance of the new walkway at Smith Falls State Park east of Valentine, replace decking on an access bridge, and provide interpretive signage on new viewing decks and nearby trails;
- permitting of hunting in some state parks and state historical parks for 2023 seasons; and
- a permanent easement request from the Southern Public Power District for installation of an anchor for an overhead power line at Mormon Island State Recreation Area near Grand Island.
Staff reported on the Dark Skies Project educational programs at Merritt Reservoir SRA, which has been certified as an International Dark Sky Park by the International Dark-Sky Association.
Commissioners also heard updates on muskellunge research at Merritt Reservoir.
Staff gave a presentation on a shooting range survey conducted in cooperation with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in which most of Game and Parks’ customers who are intermediate to advanced shooters believe handgun, rifle and long-range rifle ranges should be a priority. The survey also revealed:
- While hunters are strongly aligned with shooting, anglers and park goers make up a significant portion of Nebraskans who participate in shooting sports.
- Most Nebraska hunters, anglers and park goers favor ranges that provide educational programming.
- While most customers prefer unstaffed outdoor ranges than staffed ones, most inexperienced customers prefer staffed outdoor and indoor ranges.
- Most hunters, anglers and park goers are willing to drive up to 40 miles to use a range but not much beyond that.
An update was given on the progress of the Buffalo Bill Wild West Shooting Park near North Platte, which is inspired by Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. It will include a 25-yard small bore and pistol range, 60-yard archery range, archery shooting tower, indoor motorized shooting gallery, and an indoor shooting simulator. When complete, the facility will complement Buffalo Bill Ranch State Historical Park in providing a hands-on facility where people can learn about and participate in the Wild West Show.
Also, Game and Parks’ Keith Koupal was presented the 2023 Fisheries Biologist of the Year Award from the Midwest Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies for his contributions to the fisheries conservation management and education.