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In the Sandhills Region

Stretching across more than 19,000 square miles of north and central Nebraska, the rolling prairies of the Sandhills region provide a glimpse of the vast grasslands that once covered the Great Plains. Beneath North America’s largest remaining grassland is a massive aquifer that feeds lakes, wetlands, and rivers in the valleys between grass-covered dunes,

Since the 1800s, cattle ranching has been the principal land use in the Sandhills. The region’s ranchers have a long tradition of protecting the Sandhills’ grasslands and waters, but have found that they can accomplish even more through partnerships with conservation organizations that offer funding and expertise.

Conservation challenges in the Sandhills include encroachment by eastern red cedars and a loss of wetlands and wet meadow habitat due to drainage, large-scale irrigation, and localized groundwater declines.

RWBJV conservation partners offer resources to combat eastern red cedars and maintain a healthy ecosystem of grasslands and wet meadows through projects that serve the ranching community while benefiting wildlife habitat.


Why it matters

The Sandhills region’s 11.5 million acres of grasslands and 1.2 million acres of wetlands provide nesting and migration habitat for millions of birds. An estimated 4 million grassland birds, hundreds of thousands of shorebirds, and over a quarter-million waterfowl nest in the Sandhills, as do most of the Great Plains flock of Trumpeter Swans. The same resources that benefit birds and other wildlife are also the foundation of the region’s successful ranching community.







RWBJV Administrative Regions

Conservation on the Ground

Range Land and Grassland Bird Habitat Benefit from Grant

Conservation partners have been working together in the Sandhills to improve grassland and wetland habitat on private and public lands. The condition of grasslands and wetlands in Nebraska’s Sandhills are generally better than in many other areas, due in large part to the land ethic of the ranching community, which


    • Gregory Wright
    • US Forest Service

    • gregorywright@fs.fed.us

    • (308) 432-0314

    • Ryan Lodge
    • Senior Farm Bill Wildlife Biologist, Pheasants Forever, Inc. and Quail Forever

    • ryan.lodge@ne.usda.gov

    • (308) 750-1215

    • Chad Christiansen
    • Partners for Fish and Wildlife Biologist, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

    • chad_christiansen@fws.gov

    • (402) 322-0805

    • Cassidy Wessel
    • Private Lands Biologist, Nebraska Game and Parks Commission

    • cassidy.wessel@nebraska.gov

    • (402) 360-1957

    • Ashley Garrelts
    • Project Coordinator, Sandhills Task Force

    • ashley@sandhillstaskforce.org

    • (402) 340-6839

Science Projects in the Region

Landscape-Level Habitat Use by Trumpeter Swans

A synthesis of information on habitat use by the High Plains Flock of Trumpeter Swans. Analysis may be used to identify areas of potentially suitable habitat for nesting swans.

Prairie Grouse and Long-Billed Curlew: Assessing Probability of Occurrence and Distribution Models

Description and assessment of predictive spatial species-occurrence models for greater prairie-chicken, sharp-tailed grouse and long-billed curlew throughout Nebraska.

Regional Updates

Control of Eastern Red Cedar Benefits Producers and Birds

(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

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Grassland Management for Birds, Beetles, and Beef

(Posted 8/17) The 1,590-acre Martensen/Koch tract in Loup County, Nebraska hosts one of the first projects developed through NRCS’s Working Lands for Wildlife (WLFW) program. The goal is to restore, enhance, and manage a large block of native prairie grassland habitat for the benefit of prairie wildlife, as well as

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