Long-term grassland conservation and restoration must use practical solutions that both enhance habitat and ensure economic viability. Supporting farmers and ranchers is key to our strategy. Today we watch our prairies transition to cedar forests because of uncontrolled encroaching trees. Development and land-use conversion continue to break up habitats.
Nebraskans have a strong connection to the land and a desire to improve practices to preserve it. However, landowners face thin profit margins, declining rural populations, and increasing social scrutiny of agricultural production processes. Audubon Nebraska actively collaborates with landowners to collectively improve and increase healthy habitat. We provide leadership on the local Tri-County Burn Association, help maintain and store prescribed fire equipment, conduct trainings, and annually participate in over 30 prescribed burns with neighbors. Using Spring Creek Prairie as a prairie management demonstration site, we invite neighbors to habitat tours, where they can witness the changes over time and compare the difference in different tactics and techniques.
Our Working Lands strategy also includes the Audubon Conservation Ranching program (ACR), designed to increase healthy grassland habitat and support landowners who steward the landscape. This program has enrolled over 3.5 million acres nationwide. With a focus on the Sandhills, we will continue to enroll more ranches in ACR.
As part of the Elevate campaign, we’re growing our collaborations with private landowners to pursue common goals: support their business interests while restoring habitat, and provide sanctuary for grassland birds in healthy native habitat. We look to:
- Enhance the Habitat Workshop at Spring Creek, which will hold shared equipment for landowners’ use in prescribed fire and habitat management, by installing workstations and restrooms
- Improve accessibility to the workshop
- Increase participation in the local Tri-County Burn Association, help maintain and store prescribed fire equipment, and conduct trainings
- Help landowners navigate options and secure habitat restoration funds through existing programs, like the USDA Farm Bill
- Increase capacity to conduct prairie restoration across three counties of the Denton Hills landscape
- Expand Spring Creek prairie management to enhance its role as a demonstration site for innovative restoration techniques and landowners’ learning
- Grow land stewardship ethics in the Denton Hills community by partnering on habitat work
- Enroll more ranches in the Audubon Conservation Ranching program and raise awareness of this opportunity
- Restore habitat in the Sandhills, in partnership with local landowners
- Provide cost-sharing programs for managing invasive species, such as Eastern Red Cedar