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

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.


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

Partners Unite to Improve Habitat in the Sandhills

The Nebraska Sandhills contains the largest remaining grassland area in the U.S., along with abundant rivers, lakes, and wetlands. These habitats are an important resource for a variety of bird species including waterfowl and grassland-nesting birds.  Recently, several conservation partners, including the Rainwater Basin Joint Venture, Sandhills Task Force, U.S.

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    • Jeffrey S. Abegglen
    • Nebr. National Forest


    • (308) 432-0314

    • Kenny Dinan
    • Nebr. Coordinator, PFW Program


    • (308) 382-6468

    • Shelly Kelly
    • Program Director, Sandhills Task Force


    • (308) 214-0065