The Nebraska Park and Game Commission and partners have received a $4 million grant through the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to restore grassland and wetland habitat for at-risk species.
A four-year conservation project will take place in the Sandhills and adjacent areas, where wetlands and streams face disturbance and channelization. Grasslands are also being encroached on by eastern red cedar, which can reduce available forage for livestock, increase wildfire risk, reduce stream flow, and degrade wildlife habitat.
A voluntary, incentive-based approach will be used to improve habitat while maintaining resilient ranching communities. The goals are to build capacity, restore wetlands and streams, and remove trees through mechanical tree removal and prescribed burning.
These efforts will benefit the following at-risk species in Nebraska: prairie fowl, long-billed curlew, American burying beetle, royal fritillary, plains minnow, and western prairie fringed orchid.
Three new positions will be hired to lead restoration efforts; they include a Nebraska Range Coordinator, Prescribed Fire Coordinator, and Project Coordinator.
Game and Parks partners in the project are Pheasants Forever/Quail Forever, Nebraska Grazing Lands Coalition, Northern Prairies Land Trust, Rainwater Basin Joint Venture, Sandhills Task Force, Santee Sioux Nation, and The Nature Conservancy.
The project includes several areas of the state, including the Santee Sioux Reservation, which connects to the grasslands of South Dakota, Colorado and Kansas.