If prairie creatures had Facebook pages, Massasauga rattlesnakes would probably 'friend' crayfish like this one (pictured above). Why? During winter hibernation the snakes rely on the burrows that the crayfish leave behind. Eastern Nebraska prairies are full of intricate connections like these - connections that the Conservancy would like to keep intact.
The Conservancy and its partners continue to focus efforts on four high-priority places in the southeastern part of the state - called "Biologically Unique Landscapes" in the Nebraska Natural Legacy Plan - to improve prospects for prairie plants and animals in places where they have room enough to survive. See a map of the four BULs.
This endeavor, called the Southeast Nebraska Flagship Initiative, is a collaborative venture among conservation groups. Partners include the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, the Northern Prairies Land Trust, Spring Creek Audubon, and the Conservancy. Technical assistance and cost-share dollars are provided to landowners for habitat improvement projects. "Kent (Pfeiffer, of the Northern Prairies Land Trust) has been vital to this effort. The relationships he has built with landowners are invaluable," said Chris Helzer, Eastern Nebraska Program Director.
For its part, the Conservancy has formed a team to develop research and evaluation projects and to analyze the results, which are shared with landowners and biologists so that managment and conservation strategies can be adjusted if necessary. "There is still a lot to learn about how the size and connectivity of prairie patches influence at-risk species," says Helzer. "As we learn more, we'll be better able to provide landowners with ideas for improving both their own land and the larger landscape."
Download the latest issue of the Southeast Nebraska Flagship Initiative newsletter here.
Read more about the partners involved and projects underway at www.prairienebraska.org.
February 17, 2011