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In the Central Loess Hills

The Central Loess Hills Geographic Focus Area lies between the Sandhills and the Big Bend of the Platte River in the center of Nebraska. Grasslands cover sixty percent of the region’s 3.6 million acres. The landscape of rolling-to-steep loess hills is dissected by the broad floodplain of the Loup Rivers, whose braided channels provide nesting habitat for Interior Least Terns and Piping Plovers. The region also contains an area of tablelands with playa wetlands that are used by Whooping Cranes, waterfowl, and other birds during migration.

Native plant communities include tallgrass prairie in the wet meadows along the rivers and mixed-grass prairie in the uplands; these grasslands are nesting habitat for hundreds of thousands of grassland birds. Native mixed-grass communities still existed on steeper slopes that are unsuited to plowing and are used for grazing. However, encroachment by eastern red cedar trees poses a threat both to grazing and to wildlife habitat.

In the river valleys and on the relatively level table lands, row-crop agriculture is the principal land use. As a result, many of the relatively small, ephemeral playa wetlands have been converted to cropland.


RWBJV Administrative Regions

Conservation on the Ground

Prescribed Fire Program Removes Trees and Improves Grasslands

A grant from the Nebraska Environmental Trust has helped professional wildland firefighters hone their skills while also helping Central Loess Hills landowners improve the quality of their grazing lands – and grassland bird habitat. For over a century, strong feelings about wildfire led to suppression and prevention of naturally occurring


    • Andy Bishop
    • Coordinator, Rainwater Basin Joint Venture

    • andy_bishop@fws.gov

    • (308) 380-8691

    • Kirk Schroeder
    • NE Assistant State Private Lands Coordinator, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

    • kirk_d_schroeder@fws.gov

    • (308) 379-8556

    • Ben Wheeler
    • Coordinating Wildlife Biologist, Pheasants Forever, Inc. and Quail Forever

    • ben.wheeler@nebraska.gov

    • (308) 750-2652

    • Justin Haahr
    • Private Lands Biologist, Nebraska Game and Parks Commission

    • justin.haahr@nebraska.gov

    • (402) 370-0010

Science Projects in the Region

Soil Erodibility Index for Nebraska

To aid in conservation planning and design, the RWBJV science office, in cooperation with the Natural Resources Conservation Service, developed statewide, spatially explicit GIS layers that indicate the presence of highly erodible soils.

Loess Hills Conservation through DST Integration

This project developed baseline data and species-habitat models to guide strategic habitat conservation in Nebraska's Central Loess Hills.

Regional Updates

Prescribed Fire Training Exchange Reintegrates Fire Across a Landscape

(Posted 8/17) The Loup River Prescribed Fire Training Exchange (TREX) provides an annual two-week live-fire training opportunity for professional wildland fire practitioners that benefits native prairie and grassland production on private lands. One of the greatest threats to prairie conservation and livestock production in the Great Plains is the invasion

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Nebraska Environmental Trust Grant Will Help Prescribed Fire Program

The Rainwater Basin Joint Venture will receive $84,500 from the Nebraska Environmental Trust to help expand the use of prescribed fire in central Nebraska to manage eastern red cedar trees. Encroachment by eastern red cedars reduces productivity of pasture land and degrades habitat for central Nebraska’s grassland birds. Now in

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