MISSOULA, Mont.—More than 3,600 acres of wildlife habitat is now permanently protected thanks to a series of conservation easements placed on private land by the Nebraska Land Trust (NLT) with important funding provided by the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.
“We are grateful for our NLT partners for spearheading this vital conservation work,” said Kyle Weaver, RMEF president and CEO. “We also appreciate landowners who recognized the value of the habitat on their land and then took action to permanently protect it.”
The three properties are located in northwest Nebraska along what is known as the Pine Ridge region, a high flattop land formation that lies between the Niobrara and White Rivers.
“We are deeply grateful for RMEF’s partnership in this region, because they are helping to maintain working ranches and agricultural communities in the Pine Ridge, in addition to its spectacular scenery and wildlife,” said Dave Sands, NLT executive director.
NLT placed the first of the conservation easements on the Anderson property in January 2018, followed by 2,443 acres on the MJD Ranch in September and the 633-acre Wohlers property in December 2018.
“Whereas ranching largely preserved the integrity of the Pine Ridge by maintaining wide-open spaces needed for ranching and wildlife, the past does not predict the future in beautiful wild landscapes. Statistics bear this out,” explained Sands. “According to the 2017 Nebraska Farm Real Estate Market Survey, 45 percent of land buyers in the Pine Ridge region were not farmers or ranchers, the highest such percentage of any region in the state. The region also led in out-of-state buyers, who accounted for 36 percent of land purchases.”
“Nebraska does not have a mountain range but it does have rolling hills, forests, buttes, canyons and grasslands that support approximately 3,000 wild, free-ranging elk as well as bighorn sheep, mule deer, mountain lions and other wildlife,” said Blake Henning, RMEF chief conservation officer, also a Nebraska native. “Elk are thriving there because ranchers and landowners care about wildlife.”
RMEF works with willing landowners to establish conservation easements to protect crucial elk winter and summer ranges, migration corridors, calving grounds and other areas vital to elk and other wildlife.