Building PartnershipsWritten by Jennifer Womack
Buffalo — Nikki Lohse, District Manager for the Lake DeSmet Conservation District, has been awarded the “Two Chiefs Partnership Award” for 2008 from the chiefs of the Natural Resources Conservation Service and the U.S. Forest Service.
“Nikki is a genuine grassroots representative of the landowners and the general public in the Lake DeSmet Conservation District area,” say Conservation District Chairman Dave Fraley and Supervisor John Pearson in their nomination of Lohse. The duo commend Lohse for her ability to bring leadership and volunteerism to area conservation programs.
It seems fitting that Lohse would receive an award including the word “partnership” given her noteworthy ability to develop team-based approaches in her local community. Asked about her favorite aspect of working for the Lake DeSmet Conservation District Lohse says, “Working with producers and seeing conservation on the ground.”
She’s been an instrumental part of a sage grouse habitat enhancement and restoration project including 24 landowners, 340,000 acres and a budget surpassing $3 million. “We’ve been spending 90 percent of our time on that,” says Lohse of an effort that has brought regional and national attention to Johnson County.
“We’ve implemented best management practices,” says Lohse noting that the effort includes a grazing plan on each of the participant’s land. “It’s given them the tools necessary to make management decisions and we’ve been able to implement stockwater pipelines, water development and fencing so they can manage their livestock to benefit sage grouse.” Lohse says the project is proving beneficial for sage grouse, wildlife in general and the ranchers who are involved.
“Nikki took the leadership to complete the Eva Knepper Park Habitat Nature Trail for the town of Buffalo,” say Fraley and Pearson. Following Clear Creek through the Buffalo community, the project has drawn numerous visitors.
“This project serves as a ‘show and tell’ for how stream restoration as well as woody vegetation and fuels management can work,” say Mark Booth of the U.S. Forest Service and NRCS District Conservationist Phil Gonzales in a letter supporting Lohse’s nomination. The project includes fish habitat structures, bridges, fences, weed management, stream restoration and clean up, spanning nearly a mile.
Nikki has been active in additional watershed efforts and is working with multiple partners to address fish passage. “When it comes to the rubber hitting the road and seeing a diverse conservation ethic we feel you can see the results of conservation being applied with Nickki Lohse’s leadership and commitment,” say Fraley and Pearson. Last year they say the district brought in three semi-loads of trees and hosted a very-well received Hazardous Waste Day.
“It’s very humbling to be nominated,” says Lohse. “We couldn’t have achieved what we have without Phil Gonzales’ technical assistance. We have a board that is very progressive and has a vision for conservation in our area. Without the board’s support of the projects we bring them we couldn’t have reached this point.”
Lohse says, “I think the conservation districts across the state do a good job working for our natural resources. The landowners who are proactive in our area have done wonderful conservation work. The partners that I work with in my area are super and step up to the plate to offer financial and technical assistance to get the job done.”
Nebraska State Conservationist Steve Chick, Nebraska State Forester Scott Josiah and Greg Sundstrom of the Colorado State Forest Service were also recipients of the 2008 award.