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In Other Regions

Although the RWBJV maintains its focus in the Rainwater Basin for on-the-ground conservation and habitat projects, the partnership also provides biological planning, conservation design tools, and other support to conservation partners in the “RWBJV Administrative Area.” The Administrative Area encompasses the Nebraska portions of the NABCI-designated Mixed-Grass Prairie Bird Conservation Region (BCR-19) and Prairie Pothole Region (BCR-11).

For planning purposes, the RWBJV has divided the Administrative Area into eight Geographic Focus Areas (GFAs), according to similar topographies, soils, land use, threats to habitat, priority species, and conservation opportunities. The eight GFAs are:

 

  • Central Loess Hills
  • Central and North Platte River
  • Missouri River
  • Northeast Prairies/Elkhorn River
  • Rainwater Basin
  • Republican River/Blue River Drainages and Loess Canyons
  • Sandhills
  • Verdigre-Bazile Creek Drainages

 

 

The Missouri River Geographic Focus Area comprises the 125-mile stretch of the river from Ft. Randall Dam, downstream to Ponca, Nebraska. The focus area includes the active river channel and its floodplain, which contains 28,500 acres of riparian and palustrine wetlands and about 6,000 acres of grassland.

Migrating waterfowl and shorebirds rely on the Missouri River’s stopover habitat; in addition, bare sandbars in the river channels provide nesting habitat for Interior Least Terns and Piping Plovers.

The Missouri River was once a complex and dynamic mosaic of channels, backwater wetlands, oxbows, wooded islands, and floodplain forests, but the river has been dammed upstream and channelized downstream of the GFA. Altered and diminished flows and sediment behind dams have led to channel down-cutting, which isolates the stream from its floodplain, further drying meadows and off-channel wetlands and hastening their conversion to agriculture. Purple loosestrife and Phragmites have invaded and become established along this stretch of the river.

The RWBJV’s conservation goal in the GFA is to provide technical resources and data sufficient to help conservation partners map and quantify available habitat and to describe the effects of different flow regimes on habitat conditions.

 

The Northeast Prairies/Elkhorn River Geographic Focus Area covers the northeastern part of the RWBJV Administrative Area, bounded on the north by the Missouri River and on the south by the Platte River. The landscape was once covered by tallgrass and mixed-grass prairie. It still contains over 1.3 million acres of grassland and about 320,000 acres of wetlands, including the Todd Valley playa wetland complex. Along the Elkhorn River, habitats in the floodplain and steep drainages vary from savannah to dense forest.

A variety of grassland birds nest in the region; migrating waterfowl, waterbirds, and shorebirds use the Elkhorn River and Todd Valley wetlands, and the river provides breeding habitat for Interior Least Terns and Piping Plovers.

Most of the region’s grasslands have been converted to agriculture – primarily corn, soybeans, and alfalfa. However, nearly 10% of the grassland area has been re-established through the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). The principal threat to the quality of remaining grasslands is encroachment by invasive plants such as eastern red cedar and smooth brome.

 

The Republican River/Blue River Drainages and Loess Canyons GFA is located along the southern edge of the RWBJV Administrative Area. To the east, the GFA has rolling hills, relatively flat plains, and highly productive soils along the rivers. The west contains steep hills and canyons; it also contains the Southwest Playa wetland complex, a relatively flat area of isolated playa wetlands similar to Rainwater Basin wetlands, but generally smaller. The grasslands are breeding habitat for an estimated 1.5 million grassland birds. The 16,000-acre Harlan County Reservoir is a migration stopover for shorebirds, waterbirds, and waterfowl.

Unlike other parts of the RWBJV Administrative Area, much of this GFA has relatively limited surface- and groundwater; it therefore has a higher proportion of dry-land farming. Because of a moratorium, no additional lands in the Republican River basin have come under irrigation since 2004. The basins of the Blue Rivers, however, have not been subject to such restrictions. Conversion of grasslands and wetlands to row crops has occurred to a higher degree in the eastern part of the GFA, while the west has more rangeland. Invasive species threaten the quality of grassland habitats throughout the region.

 

The Verdigre-Bazile Creek Drainages GFA is located in Cedar, Knox, and Antelope Counties, along the northern edge of the RWBJV Administrative Area. It encompasses the watersheds of two cold-water streams: Verdigre Creek, a tributary of the lower Niobrara River, and Bazile Creek, which empties into the Missouri River just below the mouth of the Niobrara.

This relatively small GFA is in the transition zone between tallgrass and mixed-grass prairie, and provides nesting habitat to an estimated 600,000 grassland birds, including Greater Prairie-Chickens.

Land cover is a mixture of grassland, woodland, and crops – principally corn, soybeans, and alfalfa. The quality of grasslands in the region is threatened by invasive plant species, including eastern red cedar, smooth brome, and Kentucky bluegrass.

 


RWBJV Administrative Regions


Conservation on the Ground

We're working on cataloging projects in this region. Stay tuned.

Contacts


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Science Projects in the Region

We're working on cataloging projects in this region. Stay tuned.


Regional Updates

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