The Nebraska Master Naturalist Program has received a $49,179 grant from the Nebraska Environmental Trust.
Dennis Ferraro, professor of practice in the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s School of Natural Resources, will lead an effort to expand the program, which is a public-private partnership supported by the university, NET, the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission and the Nebraska Master Naturalist Foundation.
The adult education program focuses on providing volunteers with hands-on experiences with Nebraska’s natural resources. Participants undergo 60 hours of in-depth training led by experts in their fields. They learn about Nebraska’s flora and fauna, native ecosystems, natural resource interpretation, citizen science and more.
The program began in 2009 through a partnership that recognized the limited resources of Nebraska’s conservation agencies and organizations. Today, it has 415 volunteers, or Certified Master Naturalists, who actively contribute to at-risk species conservation, restore native habitats, prevent degradation of waterways and improve waste management. Master Naturalists have contributed 63,141 hours on more than 6,000 projects in Nebraska, which translates to $1,558,951 in salary savings to natural resource agencies and organizations. The program has reached more than 500,000 individuals in Nebraska.
With the funding, the program aims to expand and build on progress toward a sustainable future. Goals are to increase the number of new Certified Master Naturalists by 60; support the established Master Naturalist community through continuing education on advanced topics; conserve Nebraska’s natural resources by providing at least 3,500 hours of volunteer service that support at least 25 conservation organizations or agencies; and reach more than 10,000 individuals by informing and educating citizens about natural resource conservation.
The project is one of 118 receiving $20 million from the NET this year. Of these, 73 were new applications and 45 are carry-over projects.
The Nebraska Legislature created the NET in 1992. Using revenue from the Nebraska Lottery, the trust has provided more than $328 million in grants to more than 2,300 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.