The Republican River/Blue River Drainages and Loess Canyons Geographic Focus Area (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.
(Photo courtesy of Nebraskaland Magazine)