Lake Wanahoo State Recreation Area (SRA) will open April 28, Director Rex Amack told the Nebraska Game and Parks Commissioners at their meeting March 9 in Lincoln.

Game and Parks agreed in January to manage the SRA owned by the Lower Platte North Natural Resources District (NRD). On March 8, the NRD voted on a date to open the area. A grand opening is expected some time in May.

The 1,777-acre property that includes a 662-acre reservoir is located north of Wahoo in Saunders County. The area will offer camping, fishing, hiking, boating, hunting, wildlife viewing and park facilities.

The commissioners on March 9 also approved a no-wake boating regulation for Lake Wanahoo.

In other business, commissioners adopted a four-zone format for duck hunting in 2012, while postponing a decision on boundaries for those zones. They asked for more time to look at the boundaries before submitting a decision to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service by the May 1 deadline. A four-zone format will allow more diversity in season dates across the state than the current three-zone format. However, closed periods within seasons, commonly known as splits, no longer can be used. The four-zone format will be used through at least the 2015-16 hunting season.

The commissioners also approved an expansion of the Focus on Pheasants (FOP) Plan. The plan expands the existing Southwest Focus Area and adds the South-central and Northeast focus areas. In all, more than 1 million acres are added to the plan.

FOP is a joint effort by Game and Parks, Pheasants Forever and resource and conservation partners to improve pheasant hunting by creating more and better habitat.

The Southwest Focus Area has expanded from 262,529 acres in portions of northwest Hitchcock, southeast Hayes and northwest Red Willow counties to 956,048 acres in all of Hitchcock and portions of Hayes, Frontier and Red Willow counties. The South-Central Focus on Pheasants area includes 353,275 acres in portions of Furnas and Harlan counties, and the new Northeast Focus on Pheasants area includes 294,124 acres in parts of Antelope, Holt and Knox counties.

The commissioners renamed the shooting sports complex at Platte River State Park the Roger G. Sykes Outdoor Heritage Education Complex. Sykes, the park’s only superintendent since it opened in 1982, passed away on Dec. 13, 2011.

The 2012 big game recommendations were approved by the commissioners. They include a new 126-day River Antlerless deer season that targets 11,300 square miles of river corridor.

In other action, commissioners endorsed an agreement regarding the biological evaluation process for the Federal Aid Transportation Program. Michelle Koch, environmental analyst supervisor for Game and Parks, said the agreement between Game and Parks, Nebraska Department of Roads, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Federal Highway Administration facilitates an evaluation process for road projects, allowing for more efficient and timely environmental reviews. Road projects are reviewed for possible impact on threatened and endangered species.

Don Gabelhouse, Game and Parks’ fisheries administrator, updated the commissioners on the Aquatic Habitat and Angler Access programs, which revitalize fisheries and improve bank-fishing opportunities. He said 11 projects will be completed in 2012-13 at a total cost to Game and Parks of approximately $10 million.

Todd Nordeen, Game and Parks’ northwest district wildlife manager, updated the commissioners on the February translocation of 39 bighorn sheep from Alberta, Canada to the Nebraska Pine Ridge north of Harrison.

The meeting was the last for Amack as the agency’s director. He will retire in April following 45 years at Game and Parks, the last 24 as director.

“I thank you for all your support,” he told the commissioners. “If a person can find a more interesting, meaningful place to work, I’d like to apply.” As for the next director, Amack said he “hopes he has the same appreciation for how meaningful and important the job is as I have.”

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