The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission will consider staff recommendations to increase the fee for state park entry permits when it meets Aug. 4 in Valentine.

The meeting will begin at 8 a.m. Central time at the Niobrara Lodge, 803 E. Highway 20.

Staff will propose raising the annual permit for Nebraska-licensed vehicles from $30 to $35 and a temporary (daily) permit from $6 to $7 beginning Jan. 1, 2024. An approval would also activate an increase in permit fees for vehicles licensed outside of Nebraska. Those annual permits would increase from $60 to $70, with the daily permit increasing from $12 to $14.

The duplicate permit would go from $15 to $17.50 for Nebraska-licensed vehicles and $30 to $35 for vehicles licensed outside of Nebraska.

The commissioners also will consider authorizing one lottery and one auction permit for a 2024 bighorn sheep hunting season. The season would be Dec. 3-22.

Separately, staff will recommend commissioners approve an application period for a potential bighorn management hunt (one is not recommended at this time). Approval would allow for a management hunt application period separate from a regular sheep hunt application period.

If a management season were approved in the future, it would be for Nebraska residents only, and the application period would begin 60 days before the opening of the management season and last 14 days. Management hunts would only be approved to manage the health and sustainability of a bighorn herd.

Commissioners also will consider recommendations to:

  • apply for a 2023 Recreational Trails Program grant to enhance the entrance of the new walkway at Smith Falls State Park east of Valentine, replace decking on an access bridge, and provide interpretive signage on new viewing decks and nearby trails;
  • approve permitting of hunting in some state parks and state historical parks for 2023 seasons; and
  • approve a permanent easement request from the Southern Public Power District for installation of an anchor for an overhead power line at Mormon Island State Recreation Area near Grand Island.

Staff will report on the Dark Skies Project educational programs at Merritt Reservoir SRA, which has been certified as an International Dark Sky Park by the International Dark-Sky Association.

Commissioners also will hear updates on muskellunge research at Merritt Reservoir and on the agency’s shooting range plans, including a new range at Buffalo Bill State Historical Park.

A complete meeting agenda can be found at on our “public notices” webpage. Find proposed changes to Commission regulations and orders on the “rules, regulations and orders” page.

High water temperatures causing fish die-offs

Nebraska Game and Parks biologists are investigating the extent of a fish die-off along the Platte and Loup rivers near Columbus and downstream, as well as along the Loup Power Canal.

Multiple species of dead fish were documented along the waterways July 28, but more are expected to perish as hot and dry conditions persist and water levels decline.

Extreme heat has led to water temperatures measuring over 90 degrees in shallow stretches of these rivers in recent days and is the likely cause of the die-offs.

It is hoped cooler temperatures in the forecast will reduce additional effects.