A Legacy of Conservation
A unique partnership of agencies, Platte River Basin Environments, Inc., The Nature Conservancy, and the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, who work cooperatively to manage a unique biological landscape for conservation purposes.
The Wildcat Hills and adjoining prairie (Wildcat Hills Wildlands-WHW) encompass a unique and endangered 415,000 acre ecosystem with about 215,000 acres in the northern sector and 200,000 acres in the southern sector. These escarpments and grasslands provide connectivity with the significantly larger Wyoming landscape. The northern sector is continuous for about 55 miles along the southern edge of the North Platte River Valley from Lyman, Nebraska to Bridgeport, Nebraska. Isolated segments of escarpments extend the corridor into the mountains of Wyoming and one hundred miles to the east along the North Platte River. An unusual diversity of prairie and montane plant species flourish in the Wildcat Hills. The diversity of wildlife species supported by this vegetation and the unique topography is further enhanced by its location in the middle of the continental ecotone between eastern and western bird species and the ecotone between the Central Short Grass Prairie and the Northern Great Plains Steppe. Consequently, the Wildcat Hills ecosystem has been designated as a Biologically Unique Landscape by the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission (NGPC) and a Portfolio Site by The Nature Conservancy (TNC).
Integrity of this ecosystem has been conserved largely because ranchers maintained the wide-open spaces within and bordering the hills. The advanced age of many ranch owners and an exponential increase in rural-housing-development pressure predispose much of the WHW to fragmentation and loss of critical habitat. The cost of purchasing land in the WHW is well beyond the net income potential of beef production. The opportunity to maintain the geographic scale of wildlands needed to sustain all of the native species in the WHW will be lost without the immediate joint effort of ranch owners, individuals, corporations, and agencies who are dedicated to the conservation of this endangered ecosystem. Our land ethic should reflect a balance between the growth of our region and the critical needs of our natural landscape and its flora and fauna. If we are successful, the Wildcat Hills will also remain an important natural amenity contributing to a high quality of life for Scottsbluff, Gering, other neighboring communities, and the people of Nebraska.
To conserve the beauty and the many indigenous life forms of the WHW, our mission is to maintain, enhance and restore native plant communities and the full diversity of wildlife they support. Our vision is to develop a unique collaborative process by which the NGPC, Platte River Basin Environments Inc. (PRBE), TNC, future land-owner partners, conservation organizations, and the public will benefit well beyond their respective investments.
I. Secure protection of sufficient land through conservation ownership and easements to establish ecologically viable core areas where native plant communities can be managed for biological diversity and at-risk species.
II. Secure funding for operating and maintaining (O&M) the Wildcat Hills Wildlands through their promotion of income producing activities that support ecological management objectives.
III. Cooperate with private landowners in the Wildcat Hills BUL to improve and protect biological diversity on their land.
IV. Secure cooperation between Wildcat Hills Wildlands partners on all aspects of biodiversity management.
V. Promote the enjoyment of the Wildcat Hills Wildlands by Nebraska’s citizens and visitors by ensuring accessibility for compatible recreational opportunities.
VI. Use science-based decision-making processes to direct and evaluate conservation activities.
VII. Develop communication strategies and tools for the WHW that will encourage the flow of information between the public and the management and administrative components of the WHW (to the benefit of all Wildcat Hills landowners).