Center for Great Plains Studies launches ecotourism coalition, poster series

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Center for Great Plains Studies launches ecotourism coalition, poster series

"Crane Country," an example of Great Plains Ecotourism Coalition's 12 posters by Katie Nieland of the Center for Great Plains Studies

A byway for more than 500,000 sandhill cranes, a 321-mile bike trail, dancing chickens and some of the darkest night skies in the country — the Great Plains has much to offer travelers.

The Center for Great Plains Studies at the University of Nebraska is launching a project to help these ecological marvels become top ecotourism destinations. Nov. 7 will mark the birth of the Great Plains Ecotourism Coalition — a group committed to promoting environmental conservation and building thriving communities through nature-based tourism in the Great Plains.

Several public institutions and private landowners have already joined the coalition. Among the members so far are the Switzer Ranch and Nature Reserve, the Grand Island Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Nebraska Star Party, the Nebraska State Museum, Sheepwagon Hideouts, Audubon Nebraska, The Nature Conservancy Nebraska Program and Big Blue Ranch.

“Ecotourism offers a way to combine conservation of biodiversity with new economic opportunities for rural towns across the Great Plains,” said Rick Edwards, director of the center. “It’s the best way to engage with the natural beauty and wonder of the region.”

To help ecotourism locations market themselves and spread the word about the beauty of these destinations, the center has created a series of posters featuring scenes from Nebraska and the wider Great Plains. The posters, designed by center communications coordinator Katie Nieland, are modeled after the Works Progress Administration’s National Park posters of the 1930s and serve as a launching point for the coalition.

The poster series, combined with a website (, will give the public an access point to discover more about the ecotourism sites in the Plains. Center for Great Plains Studies consultant Kat Shiffler has been traveling the state this summer discussing the coalition with potential members.

“Getting the word out about ecotourism can mean great things for both rural communities and conservation,” she said. “The coalition, and these fun posters, are another tool in our tool box moving forward.”

To mark the launch of the coalition, the center will host a First Friday reception unveiling the complete poster series from 5-7 p.m. Nov. 7 at the Great Plains Art Museum. At 5:30, Edwards and Shiffler will speak about the project. Brian Baskerville, a geographer, will speak about ecotourism in the Great Plains. Posters and postcards will be available for purchase at the event and afterward at the Great Plains Art Museum and online. For more information, visit or

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