Grasslands on the Murphy Ranch in the Wildcat Hills.
Murphy Ranch Grasslands on the Murphy Ranch in the Wildcat Hills. © Chris Helzer/The Nature Conservancy

Places We Protect

Nebraska

Murphy Ranch in the Wildcat Hills

This Watchable Wildlife Area connects conservation lands for wildlife - and for people

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. 

“Our mission is to conserve biological diversity, first and foremost,” said Mace Hack, State Director. “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.

The 1,680-acre 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.

“We are glad to welcome the hikers, photographers, birdwatchers, Scouts, horseback riders, and others who will enjoy this land,” said Hack. 

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.

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:

Bobcats
Burrowing owls*
Coyotes
Elk
Golden eagles
Mountain bluebirds
Mountain mahogany
Nutall’s desert parsley*
Plains topminnows*
Ponderosa pines
Pygmy nuthatches
Sharp-tailed grouse
Swift foxes*
Red crossbills
Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep*
Whitetail and mule deer
Wild turkey
Yucca

*at risk