The Niobrara River is one of the last relatively unaltered waterways in the Great Plains. This stretch of the river is threatened by increased pumping to provide water for center-pivot irrigation to increase grazing and haying production yields. Biologists have demonstrated that excessive pumping can lead to a cascade of events—habitat fragmentation, altered hydrological flows, ground-water depletion, invasion of exotic plants, and the loss of native biodiversity.
The Nature Conservancy is working with a variety of partners, and especially with landowners, to find ways to keep land in private for-profit ownership. The Conservancy is working with ranchers and landowners who share the desire to wisely manage the Niobrara River’s aquatic resource.
By acquiring land in this critical part of the Niobrara watershed, the Conservancy has the opportunity to put a face on who we are. It allows us to be a neighbor, to be part of the local ranching community, to exchange management ideas, and to share in the decision-making process regarding the future best use of the river and its upland grasslands.