The Importance of Outreach and Education for Wetlands Conservation

Thursday, May 16, 2024

Wetland Program Manager, Nebraska Game and Parks Commission

Having worked to conserve Nebraska’s wetlands over the past 30 years, and in honor of National Wetlands Month, I have been reflecting on what factors make wetland conservation successful. Thanks to the collaboration of many different partners, including landowners, we can be proud of the accomplishments made in wetland research, restoration, and management. To build on these successes, I believe it is important to broaden the network of people who understand wetlands and support their conservation. To do this, we need to expand and improve our outreach and education efforts.  

First, a little background about Nebraska’s wetlands. They are surprisingly diverse, and although they cover only a small portion of Nebraska, they contribute immensely to wildlife conservation. Wetlands are hotspots for biodiversity and provide important habitat for 50% of Nebraska’s birds and plants, 100% of the amphibians and fish, a third of the mammals and reptiles, and 70% of threatened or endangered species.  

Less well known, but equally important, are the benefits that wetlands serve in improving water quality, recharging groundwater, sequestering carbon, protecting us from flood damage, and providing places to recreate.

To increase awareness of the importance of wetlands in Nebraska and the need for their conservation, the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission recently completed the Wetlands of Nebraska Outreach and Education project. The project, which produced and distributed a series of outreach and educational materials, was funded primarily by a grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and partners helping with implementation, including the Platte Basin Timelapse (PBT) group at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL), the Nebraska Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, and Ducks Unlimited. The products created through this project include:

•    An overview film and five feature films about Nebraska’s wetlands and the wildlife and people that depend on them — Sandhills, Playas, Saline, Riverine, and Urban. The films, produced by the talented Platte Basin Timelapse team at UNL, take viewers on a journey across Nebraska to meet some interesting characters and to witness scenes and wildlife that few people get to experience.
•    Two educational videos and paired lesson plans about plant adaptations and animal engineers that were developed specifically for classroom use.
•    Five ESRI StoryMaps—Sandhills, Playas, Saline, Riverine, and Urban—that provide background about the producer and their reflections about the project, a photo gallery, and additional film clips and stories. 
•    Publications including a Guide to Nebraska’s Wetlands and their Conservation Needs and kids’ magazine entitled Wetlandology.

Check out to access these materials and so much more.

This outreach and education effort, as with virtually everything we do for wetland conservation, was accomplished through collaboration. I was honored to be one of the recipients of the Environmental Law Institute’s National Wetlands Awards in 2020, this honor, however, couldn’t have been done without the amazing community of people who work hard every day to advance wetlands conservation. The award provided an opportunity to share their story. Wetland conservation success in the future will depend on ramping up how we share the stories about the important role wetlands play in everyone’s lives to encourage better care for wetlands.