Aquatic Habitat Program

The Aquatic Habitat Program works to improve conditions for aquatic life through better management or rehabilitation of existing resources, and collaborates with partners to build new waters to make them the best they can be.

Since it’s inception in 1997, the Nebraska Aquatic Habitat Program has has generated more than $90 million for improvements to 137 water bodies.

Funding for this program is provided by the purchasing of the Aquatic Habitat Stamp, which is included in the price of a fishing license. Nebraska was the first state in the nation to require such a stamp, without which these projects wouldn’t be possible.

This is why the program is aimed at improving habitat for fish that anglers love. But, the program’s benefits go beyond fish and create positive effects for all Nebraskans.

Benefits beyond fish

In addition to improved fisheries, the Aquatic Habitat Program has wide-ranging benefits for Nebraskans. They include:

  • Improved accessibility to the water, through the installation of boat ramps, kayak launches, fishing piers and sidewalks or paths to the waterfront.
  • Improved water quality and clarity that benefits an entire watershed.
  • Creation of wetland and wetland complexes, which promotes species diversity and richness, filters pollution, stores sediment, and captures nutrients that otherwise would cause harmful algae blooms.
  • Generates recreational opportunities through the improved health of a waterbody, including kayaking, camping, hunting, wildlife viewing and outdoor photography.
  • Increases biodiversity attracting or creating habitat for migratory and water birds, muskrats, beavers, otters, aquatic plants, and even deer and turkeys.

Designing Fish-Friendly Reservoirs

Restoring new life to ageing waters can be very expensive. This is why we provide technical assistance on reservoir design and construction methods, to ensure new reservoirs are designed to incorporate features that extend their functional life span and fully support healthy fish populations for people to enjoy for generations to come.

We also sometimes financial assistance to incorporate in-lake fish habitat, shoreline angling areas and boating access to these new public waters.

Featured Projects

Aquatic Habitat Projects have been conducted on every type of water body in Nebraska. Explore some of our projects completed since the program began by clicking the pictures below.

Conestoga State Recreation Area

Aerial View of Spotted Tail,

Dry Spotted Tail Creek

Fort Robinson State Park


Sherman Reservoir

Spalding Fish Passage

An aerial photo shows Summit Lake SRA near Tekamah

Summit Lake


Valentine National Wildlife Refuge

An aerial photo shows sandpit lakes at Sandy Channel SRA

I-80 Lakes

An aerial photograph shows the completed Holmes Lake restoration project.

Holmes Lake

History of the habitat program

The Aquatic Habitat Program is the first of its kind in the nation and has received national attention for its innovation.

A tremendous amount of preparation and planning went into its creation in 1997 through legislation that created the Aquatic Habitat Stamp. Big questions to address included: “How will we prioritize which waters will be worked on?” and “What are the aquatic habitat problems for each location and how can they be fixed?” So we wrote a plan identifying identifying which waters were impaired and the type of work needed to restore them to productive healthy habitats. Our slogan: “New Life for Aging Waters” was born from this effort.

Funding is restricted to only those waters listed in the Aquatic Habitat Plan.