Gracie Creek Implementation Project: Restoring Habitat for Priority Species

This project began spring 2011 and is funded by a grant from the Nebraska Environmental Trust, with matching funds provided by World Wildlife Fund.  The Loup Basin RC&D has partnered with the Gracie Creek Landowners on this project and serves as their fiscal agent.

The overall objectives of the project are to maximize the quality and quantity of nesting and breeding habitat of the Greater Prairie Chicken and demonstrate large- landscape conservation compatible with livestock management through collaborative private landowner actions that can be a model for the Sand Hills and elsewhere in Nebraska.  The project implements the Sandhills Stewardship Plan developed during a previous project and will applies existing research on interactions between grazing and grazing systems and grassland birds.

Thus far, approx. 3400 acres within the project area have undergone prescribed grazing, monitoring programs have been initiated and cedar tree removal equipment has been purchased.

The above two photos show one area before and after invasive cedar trees were removed and piled.

These two photos are before and after invasive cedar trees were removed along Gracie Creek and a riparian area.



The four photos below show the progression of approx. 400 acres that is bordered by a Greater Prairie Chicken booming ground on the south side and a Sharp-tailed Grouse dancing ground on the north.

Photo #1 shows the “before” state—notice the emergence of many small invasive cedar trees (ignore the kids!).

Photo #2  shows the area after mechanical removal most of the trees.  The area was grazed early and deferred for majority of the growing season to allow fuel to accumulate.

Photo #3:  The following spring a prescribed fire was performed on the area to kill any remaining invasive trees and/or seeds while reinvigorating native forbs, shrubs and grasses.  The prescribed burn was successfully completed by the Gracie Creek Landowners with the assistance of the Loup County Volunteer Fire Dept., which used the burn as a training event.

Photo #4 shows the area a few weeks after the burn.  Just over ½ of the total pasture was burned.  The landowner continued to utilize the pasture in a deferred rotation grazing system the following summer.  The 2012 Prairie Grouse Census reported 22 Sharp-tailed Grouse Males and 7 Greater Prairie Chicken Males on leks near the burn area (both numbers higher than previous years).