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The special session of the legislature for redistricting is here. We begin Monday the 13th. Every ten years after the census we redraw all the political maps, adjusting boundaries based on the new census. Even though our unicameral is called a “non-partisan” body, redistricting always creates the temptation for the Nebraska Legislature to make it a partisan fight. Redistricting in the next couple of weeks is going to be very politically contentious. For me, the fight is about making darn sure that we draw districts that are fair to rural Nebraska. Rural Nebraska is still the economic heart of this state. It is also the most beautiful place to be.
There are eight state parks in Nebraska. Four of them are in District 43, which I have the honor of representing. There are 283 Wildlife Management Areas (WMA) in Nebraska. My legislative district has forty-three of them. We have some of the best hunting opportunities in the nation. We have beautiful waterfalls, natural lakes, reservoirs, and wetlands, not to mention the globally-unique geography of the Sandhills and the world-renowned rivers for float trips. All that beauty is also smack in the middle of the world’s best beef.
Since I have been in office, each year I receive a number of calls and letters about improving access to these natural treasures. In a number of places in western Nebraska, the public is used to using the “traditional” access to lakes and rivers. These places are not officially recognized or maintained by the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission (NGPC), or the Nebraska Department of Transportation (NDOT). They often pose a safety hazard on state and county roads. Vehicles end up stuck in places they should not have been, and trespassers often rile up private landowners.
In the days ahead the staff and I are going to work with NGPC and NDOT to improve these access issues. We may not be able to find a favorable solution for every case, but I want to try. The solutions will have to involve these two state agencies and private landowners at a minimum. I do not want to be forced to introduce a bill to achieve the level of cooperation we need, and I don’t think I will have to. I have had some success working with NDOT and NGPC on other projects, so I think we have what it takes to get this done.
If you have a suggestion to improve one of our state recreation areas, or have a “traditional” access point you would like to see made official and maintained, please send us an email describing the situation and explaining your reasoning and I will add it to the growing list of issues I will raise with these state agencies in the near future. Tourism for Nebraska continues to be a big economic driver for our district and state.