(Posted 8/17) The 550-acre Gehl tract in Greeley County, Nebraska is comprised of mixed-grass prairie habitat overrun by invasive eastern red cedar. A project to control this tree has been funded by Working Lands for Wildlife, and will improve habitat quality for birds and other prairie wildlife and increase forage production for cattle.
Nebraska’s Sandhills make up the largest dune stabilized grassland system in the Northern Hemisphere, covering over 19,300 square miles and containing over a million acres (1,562 square miles) of wetlands and sub-irrigated meadows. This grassland-wetland system is crucial habitat for numerous grassland birds, waterfowl, and native pollinators, as well as the federally endangered American burying beetle.
In 2017, the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) introduced Working Lands for Wildlife (WLFW). Its purpose is to address resource concerns on working lands for the benefit of priority species using funding from a special allocation of the Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP). The Nebraska Cattlemen sponsored WLFW in the Eastern Sandhills, drawing together multiple partners in support of it. Partners include: Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Sandhills Task Force, private landowners, and the NRCS. WLFW provides another approach to add to the significant work already being implemented by these partners.
The Gehl tract in Greeley County, Nebraska is one of the first projects implemented through WLFW. The tract comprises 550 acres of mixed-grass prairie habitat in need of restoration, enhancement, and management for the benefit of greater prairie chickens, monarch and regal fritillary butterflies, American burying beetles, migratory grassland nesting birds, and other wildlife species known to use the Sandhills mixed-grass prairie area of Nebraska. To accomplish this, invasive species, primarily eastern red cedar, will be removed. Management of the tract will be improved by implementing a prescribed grazing and management plan. Controlled grazing and the integration of prescribed fire will ensure the treated lands maintain healthy grasslands and reduce re-infestation by eastern red cedar. Total project costs are $11,816.40.
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