By Jeremy Schaaf
There are a number of different conservation and wildlife organizations out there doing some great things in line with their mission. Some have been around for many years and widely known, while others may be relatively new and just getting their feet wet. I’m sure many of you have attended banquets and spent your money trying to win auction items and raffles in the name of conservation. And why not? It’s typically a fun evening with like-minded people and it feels good when you think that the money you spent that night is hopefully going to a good cause. Do you know where that money ended up? And if you do know, did it end up remotely close to your neck of the woods? Meaning, did it end up benefiting anything remotely close to your community? It’s possible you don’t know and that it did not benefit anything near your community. This is not a piece meant to shed a negative outlook towards any of those organizations, as there are some great programs in place and on a national level, that make good things happen.
Instead, I thought I’d highlight a different organization that started in Nebraska. A grassroots organization that started out as a handful of guys wanting to take a different approach. They wanted to see what it would look like if they took a chance on themselves to raise as much money as they could by having a banquet, and then turning around and implementing conservation projects back into the community of which that money was raised. They took the plunge in 2013 and called themselves the Big Game Conservation Association (BGCA) and 100% of all monies raised stays in Nebraska.
In wanting to ensure the future of all Nebraska big game, the BGCA set out as a non-profit organization compiled of volunteers. They began working towards the goal of creating conservation programs on public lands, recruiting youth into the outdoors, as well as rallying sportsmen and women to get behind them. In addition, passing along the hunting traditions and heritage that was passed down to them by outdoorsmen who came before them.
The BGCA as an association, now has two branches working under their umbrella doing some great projects in their local communities. They have a branch in Lincoln NE as well as a Northeast branch that covers that portion of the state. They also have two other communities working towards forming their own branch and the goal is to create many more. With the branches completing conservation and habitat projects in their communities, the association as a whole has a long term goal of purchasing land and turning it into public land access. With Nebraska being 97% privately owned, public land used for hunting and fishing is in short supply.
In a short amount of time, the BGCA has completed an array of projects that you can find on their website www.nebiggame.com Some of those projects are as follows: Powderhorn WMA, Lake Wanahoo, Wagon Train SRA, Conestoga SRA, Sherman Reservoir Shrub Project and a new project at Ponca State Park. There are more projects listed on their site along with some programs that they have donated to. One of those programs to benefit was the Hunters Helping the Hungry, in which the BGCA held a matching campaign and donated $10,000.00 to this program. This is a great list of projects already completed and the branches have a head start on what they want to accomplish in 2020.
The BGCA and each of their branches hold an annual banquet called the Sportsmen’s Night. The Sportsmen’s Night is how they raise most of their money for the year. Along with generous sponsors that donate to the cause. The Lincoln event is January 11, 2020 and will be at the Pla Mor Ballroom in Lincoln. The Northeast event is February 16, 2020 in Dakota City NE. And the Associations event will be March 28, 2020 at the Howell’s NE ballroom.
If you are close to any of these locations, I highly recommend attending one of these events. They typically have a ton of great items. Live and silent auctions, many raffles and their famed gun wall. The gun wall routinely sends many smiling faces out the door with firearms that they won that night. The events are usually highly attended with lots of women and of course, kids are urged to join in on the night.
Lifetime hunting permits, .22 rifles, and many other awesome items are won by kids each year. And all kids go home with something. The BGCA knows that our youth will be the ones to carry on this heritage just as we are doing now. So attend one of the events and bring the kids.
All in all the BGCA is a great non-profit organization that started small and are striving to grow. They work hard to complete projects in their own communities. For the benefit of outdoorsmen and women to get outdoors and take advantage of them. All monies raised stays right there in Nebraska. And on top of that, the BGCA also donates 10% to the Nebraska Sportsmen’s Foundation each year. Check out their website, find them and like their pages on social media and join in on one of their monthly meetings to learn more. If you’re like-minded and have a desire to see what it would take to start a branch in your community, reach out to them.