Master Naturalist program to encourage youth membership

· 2 min read

Master Naturalist program to encourage youth membership

River with low sun

A University of Nebraska–Lincoln project to encourage youth to become naturalists has received a $71,000 grant from the Nebraska Environmental Trust.

The Nebraska Master Naturalist Program provides participants an opportunity to contribute to natural resource conservation through meaningful, science-based volunteer experiences. The program began in 2009 through a partnership that recognized Nebraska’s conservation agencies and organizations had limited resources. The program has 530 volunteers, or certified master naturalists, actively contributing to at-risk species conservation, restoration of native habitats, prevention of degradation of waterways and improved waste management.

Dennis Ferraro

Master naturalists have contributed 87,500 hours to more than 8,000 projects in Nebraska, which translates to a value of more than $2.2 million in salary savings to natural resource agencies and organizations. The program has reached more than 800,000 individuals in Nebraska.

“The Master Naturalist Program’s workforce is growing and evolving to meet the increasing requests for their service,” said Dennis Ferraro, professor of natural resources. “Goals of this proposal are to continue growth and establish a naturalist program for youth to enhance the future of conservation in Nebraska.”

The Nebraska Junior Master Naturalist Program will provide youth ages 9-12 an understanding of Nebraska’s unique habitats, ecosystems, at-risk species and hydrology by engaging them in hands-on environmental education lessons. The program will bring together natural resource specialists, master naturalists and educators to foster an environmentally focused community through natural resource curriculum, supplemental resources and partner resources to promote conservation action.

This is the first year of the award, with potential for second-year funding of an additional $71,000 plus.

The project is one of 23 Husker projects receiving more than $2.1 million from NET this year. In total, NET awarded 113 grants totaling more than $18 million in 2021.

The Nebraska Legislature created the NET in 1992. Using revenue from the Nebraska Lottery, the trust has provided more than $349 million in grants to more than 2,400 projects across the state. Anyone — citizens, organizations, communities, farmers and businesses — can apply for funding to protect habitat, improve water quality and establish recycling programs in Nebraska. The NET works to preserve, protect and restore the state’s natural resources for future generations.

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