North Platte, Neb. – The Loess Canyon Rangeland Alliance (LCRA) will receive $160,000 from the Nebraska Environmental Trust (NET) for the Grassland Stewardship with Prescribed Fire project. The Trust Board announced funding for the project at its meeting on April 5, 2018 in Lincoln. This is the first year of award with a potential for 2nd year funding totaling $140,000. The project is one of the 105 projects receiving $18,301,819 in grant awards from the NET this year. Of these, 66 were new applications and 39 are carry-over projects.
The Loess Canyons is a 338,000-acre mosaic of largely unfragmented mixed-grass prairie and wooded canyons. Due to its deep, fertile soils, this landscape is a valuable forage resource in the region. The land and cattle support family-owned ranches and an associated land stewardship ethic. In return, 29 species of concern thrive in the prairies over which these landowners steward. The Loess Canyons has been identified as a Biologically Unique Landscape by the Nebraska Natural Legacy Project and as a focus area for the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program. Eastern red cedar invasion and the consequences of such for Nebraska’s grasslands are well-documented and alarming. This hardy tree, which is easily killed by fire, thrives in the deep soil and semi-arid environment of the Loess Canyons. Some properties are over 70% covered by cedars. The Grassland Stewardship with Prescribed Fire project plans to build on the success of landowners and burn associations to restore ecological resiliency and rangeland productivity in the Loess Canyons. This will be accomplished by empowering landowners with the knowledge, funds, and technical assistance to remove cedars, create firebreaks, defer grazing, and work with local burn associations to return fire to the ecosystem. Timing will be critical to maintain the current synergy between landowners, burn associations, and resource professionals as they aspire toward the goal of burning 33,000 acres per year. The LCRA, private landowners, Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, USFWS, Twin Platte Natural Resources District, Natural Resources Conservation Service, and others have an effective and successful partnership in place to restore grasslands within the Loess Canyons. The LCRA seeks to expand this partnership and use $480,000.00 in grant and matching funds to do over $1,000,000.00 worth of restoration activities. This is expected to result in over 4,000 acres of invasive trees removed and to facilitate 30,000 acres of prescribed fire.
The Nebraska Legislature created the NET in 1992. Using revenue from the Nebraska Lottery, the Trust has provided over $289 million in grants to over 2,000 projects across the state. Citizens, organizations, communities, farmers and businesses, can apply for NET funding to protect habitat, improve water quality and establish recycling programs in Nebraska. NET works to preserve, protect and restore our natural resources for future generations.