Enhancing Nebraska’s Ecotourism Industry

Research & Engagement, 2016


This project intends to fill important gaps that exist in knowledge, assistance, and training about ecotourism. It will identify expectations and standards of successful international ecotourism and disseminate them through active engagement with actual and potential Nebraska entrepreneurs and providers.

Research, using field sites in Namibia, will focus on international best practices and expectations; other research will explore legal liability; sustainability; regional branding; and enterprise business planning. Engagement will utilize the recently-created Great Plains Ecotourism Coalition to reach out to existing and potential ecotourism providers, organize two ecotourism workshops, several “green lodging workshops, and a major conference at UNK in 2018 called “Ecotourism in the Great Plains.”

This project will help Nebraska’s emerging industry grow into world leaders in private-lands ecotourism; we will see new businesses and jobs created, greater conservation of wildlife and habitat on private lands, and increases in the jobs, incomes, and quality of life of participating landowners and rural communities.


This project has been a major factor in The Center for Great Plains Studies at the University of Nebraska becoming known nationally as a source in Great Plains ecotourism. Because of this project, the Center has been interviewed for publications outside the Great Plains (Minneapolis Star Tribune, Progressive Farmer, Johns Hopkins University).

Over the course of this project, two ecotourism workshops were held in Chadron and Red Cloud. These workshops shared best practices and highlighted the benefits of ecotourism to the region.

The ecotourism booklets featuring the ecotourism posters and their essays will be one of the prizes for the 2018 Nebraska Passport program, reaching around 2,000 people.

As with many conferences, the lasting impact tends to be connections made. Whether it’s drawing connections between nature, conservation, rural life, and the economy in people’s minds (one of our goals) or creating connections between people through the networking at the conference. We met many people who are the ‘boots on the ground’ in these communities. It’s these people who will make the difference for nature tourism, rural life, and conservation in the future. We’ll keep the conversation with these folks going into the future through our website, social media, and monthly newsletter. We’ll continue to solicit feedback, to plug into new trends, and to talk about why the Great Plains deserves to visited, conserved, and enriched.

Project Team


  • Charles Bicak, University of Nebraska at Kearney, Academic/Student Affairs
  • Nils Odendaal, Namibrand Nature Reserve, Namibia
  • Richard Yoder, University of Nebraska at Omaha, College of Business
  • Viktoria Keding, Namib Desert Environmental Trust, Namibia
  • Peter Longo, University of Nebraska at Kearney, Natural & Social Sciences
  • Larry Swanson, University of Montana, O’Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West


Contact: Richard Edwards, redwards@unl.edu