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Sowbelly Ranch: Helping to conserve a Pine Ridge jewel
In December 2015, Jim and Chris Voeller, the owners of the Sowbelly Ranch, a stunningly beautiful 1,304-acre section of the Sowbelly Canyon north of Harrison, Nebraska, permanently conserved the land through a conservation easement with the Nebraska Land Trust. The Voellers especially wanted to protect the habitat their ranch provides for elk and bighorn sheep.
With limited funds to purchase the easement, the Voellers generously offered to donate more than half of the easement's value to the NLT through a bargain sale at less than half the appraised value. The Nebraska Environmental Trust, which receives 44.5% of state lottery proceeds, provided most of the balance through a grant for conservation of bighorn habitat. Other partners included the Nebraska Big Game Society, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Wild Sheep Foundation and the Iowa chapter of the Foundation for North American Wild Sheep. The diversity of the partners speaks to the land's value for wildlife and the desire to preserve one of the most beautiful places in Nebraska.
Partnering to fulfill the mission of Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever
Since 1997 the Nebraska Environmental Trust has been deeply involved in fulfilling the habitat mission of Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever. Some of the innovative and successful habitat and water-quality partnerships over the last 20 years include:
The Grassland Improvement Program
Assisting landowners improve the forage quality of grasslands by removing invasive trees, conducting prescribed burns and establishing rotational grazing systems
Corners for Wildlife Program
Establishing high-quality wildlife habitat on the corners of pivot irrigation systems
No-Till Grass Drills
Purchasing no-till grass drills to plant specific habitat mixtures and produce high-quality wildlife habitat
Public Information Events
Conducting more than 10,300 public information events since 2004 containing prescribed burn workshops, habitat tours, Conservation Reserve Program sign-up meetings and Habitat Help events
Safe and Effective Prescribed Burning
Supporting prescribed burning activities by helping to obtain prescribed burn equipment, hosting training events and assisting in the formation of local prescribed burn associations
Helping students find and save the elusive swift fox
The Nebraska Environmental Trust helps support the Nebraska Canid Project, a program assisting students from UNL and Chadron State set up camera traps and identify populations of the swift fox, an at-risk Nebraska species.
"Once common from western Canada to Texas, populations of swift fox have declined drastically since the settlement of the Great Plains," said TJ Fontaine, assistant unit leader of the Nebraska Cooperative Fish & Wildlife Research Unit.
Locating these beautiful animals and gathering information on their ecological and geographical distributions is essential to successfully managing them. The students in the Nebraska Canid Project travel to the privately owned land of friends and family to set up cameras in an attempt to find and document swift foxes.