Nebraska has a proud history of success in private lands conservation, based on an emphasis not only on conservation, but also on economics and property rights. Conservation on private land works because Nebraska’s farmers and ranchers incorporate conservation measures in a way that is economically viable, providing for long-term success.
The Rainwater Basin Joint Venture and Nebraska Cattlemen are working in partnership on a private lands grazing project in Nebraska’s Rainwater Basin, a region that is valuable for farming and cattle production and as key stopover habitat for migratory waterfowl. This project incorporates aspects of all three, with a program designed to promote cattle production on lands with limited row crop potential, while also enhancing wetland habitat. The project’s goal is to facilitate a scenario that provides economic opportunity for farmers and rancher to incorporate cattle grazing of wetlands into their operations, thus providing valuable livestock forage or lease income for a landowner, while also improving wetland habitat and creating conservation benefits.
Participating landowners will receive 85% cost-share assistance on fencing and up to 85% cost-share assistance for well development to make unproductive wetlands on their property viable for livestock grazing. In return, landowners sign a ten-year agreement, stating that they will manage the area through livestock grazing and will follow, or have their lessees follow, a grazing plan to also enhance vegetation for the benefit of wetland-dependent migratory birds and to control invasive species.
Once the well and fence are installed, the program is extremely hands-off. Landowners are free to graze their own livestock on the property or to lease the land for livestock grazing. The decision is entirely up to the landowner, and landowners are free to negotiate a private grazing lease with whomever they choose. Nebraska Cattlemen will provide free advertisement of available grazing lands on their website if a landowner so desires, and will direct interested lessees to landowners participating in the program.
Landowners interested in the program may contact Nebraska Cattlemen or the Rainwater Basin Joint Venture.