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Working Lands Project – Good for the Goose, Good for the Gander, and Good for the Grazing

While I was lining up management on wetlands, I called up Chris Bragg about tree control on his mom’s Wetlands Reserve Program site in Kearney County.  After we talked about trees, he mentioned how he’d really like to clear up some of the dense vegetation on the site to provide better pheasant habitat – both to help the pheasants and his hunting success.  And he was right, that site has a large, dense stand of cattails and reed canarygrass that are outcompeting more desirable species.  He mentioned how they have a fence around the site, but there’s no well to provide water for livestock and they haven’t had a tenant in many years.  Without livestock water, it was hard to find a tenant interested in grazing the site that’s a quarter mile from the road. 

The Rainwater Basin Joint Venture (RWBJV) partnership had a perfect program for Bragg: our Working Lands Initiative that provides 85% cost-share for grazing infrastructure to landowners willing to restore and conserve their Rainwater Basin wetland.  The RWBJV partnership will provide cost-share to these landowners to help install perimeter fence, cross fence, and/or a livestock watering facility.  Grazing is a wonderful tool for managing wetlands.  It mimics the historic grazing of Rainwater Basin wetlands, allowing us to better control the undesirable plant species, while at the same time providing income through grazing leases to the landowner.  It’s a win-win situation.  Through the Working Lands Initiative, we’ve installed or have plans to install grazing infrastructure on 31 tracts totaling approximately 2,780 acres.

In Bragg’s case, the property was already fenced, so all he needed was a watering facility, which included a solar-powered well and livestock tanks to provide water for grazing cattle.  Bragg thought our 85% cost-share was just the ticket, so we set the project in motion.  I pulled in the Natural Resources Conservation Service, Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Partners for Fish and Wildlife program staff to help deliver the project.  Together we completed the needed forms and paperwork, provided engineering specs, solicited bids, and helped line up a contractor to complete the work. 

Funds for the RWBJV partnership’s 85% cost-share were provided by the Nebraska Environmental Trust, a State Wildlife Grant from the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Partners for Fish and Wildlife, and National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.  The landowner provided the final 15% of the costs.

Today, Bragg has a functioning livestock watering system and a grazing tenant who’s more than happy to graze a site with livestock water.  The cattle are on site as I write this, eating away at the lush new reed canarygrass shoots.

I wouldn’t normally say this, but it was fortuitous Bragg had tree problems because all due to a call originally about trees, he now has a brand new watering facility, the site is being grazed, and the habitat as a whole is better off.

If you’re interested in installing grazing infrastructure on your conserved Rainwater Basin wetland site, call Ele Nugent, the Habitat Specialist for the RWBJV, at 308-382-8112.