Hiking, photography, birdwatching, horseback riding View All
On your way to Murphy, stop by the Wildcat Hills Nature Center. Find out more at http://visitscottsbluff.com/attractions/wildcat-hills-nature-center. View All
In a state where less than 5% of the land is in public ownership of any kind, access to recreational land is enthusiastically celebrated by its citizens. The Murphy Ranch Watchable Wildlife Area officially opened to the public in May with a ribbon-cutting and tour.
“Our mission is to conserve biological diversity, first and foremost,” said Jason Skold, Director of Conservation Programs. “When outdoor recreation and education pass the test of being compatible with our wildlife goals, we are grateful for the opportunity to share these beautiful places.”
The Conservancy wanted to develop and emphasize recreational opportunities that complemented those offered by conservation partners (and neighbors) the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission and Platte River Basin Environments. “Our emphasis is more on the hikers, photographers, birdwatchers, Scouts, horseback riders, and others who will enjoy this land,” said Butch Ellis, Panhandle Program Director. “We do anticipate some limited hunting of deer because we want to prevent overabundance of this species, but it will depend upon our biodiversity goals.”
The Conservancy will continue to own the land and pay its property taxes. Platte River Basin Environments (PRBE) is helping to manage hunting and grazing leases.
The Murphy tract links three other properties that are in conservation ownership – the Wildcat Hills State Recreation Area and Wildlife Management Area to the west, Bead Mountain Ranch to the north, and Buffalo Creek Wildlife Management Area to the east. Together, they make up 10,000 acres of contiguous wildlife habitat.
“This is 1,680 acres in the context of about 24,000 acres owned by conservation partners in the Wildcat Hills, “said Ellis. “These places will be here for my grandchildren’s children to enjoy. The Wildcat Hills will still be wild when they grow up.”
D.A. Murphy was a third-generation businessman and retailer. The family’s L.B. Murphy companies were widely known throughout western Nebraska and Wyoming. The ranch was donated to the Conservancy in 1982, and held in a life estate for Myron Taylor (the operator and steward of the ranch) until his death. The Conservancy took over its management in 2007.
What to see in the Wildcat Hills:
Nutall’s desert parsley*
Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep*
Whitetail and mule deer
The Murphy Ranch is located south of Gering, Nebraska. It may be reached via Old Stagecoach Road or by traveling east from the Wildcat Hills Nature Center.