Trail Ride Hosted at Niobrara Sanctuary

Trail Ride on Niobrara Sanctuary © Ron Klataske-14

A three day trail ride sponsored by the Outlaw Trail Scenic Byway was hosted by Audubon of Kansas on the Hutton Niobrara Ranch Wildlife Sanctuary September 25-27, 2015. Nebraska riders with Paints and Quarter Horses joined Bob McElroy, Doug Johns and Ron Klataske with Tennessee Walkers for the event organized by Al Brock of Valentine as part of the Outlaw Trail Scenic Byway series of trail rides.

Trails on the sanctuary are designed for hiking and horseback riding, and they were fully utilized as riders rode the length of the woodland forests and prairie bluffs along and overlooking the Niobrara River. Rides closer to the Hutton Guesthouse included a moonlight ride on Friday evening, and a tour of the Lazy Easy Ranch on Sunday morning.

Corrals made from cedar posts and poles previously harvested as part of our cedar-thinning (forest stand improvement) program were built for the occasion, and for future use. The two guesthouses provided lodging opportunities, and other guests brought camper trailers. Read More

Prairie Wings Fall 2015/Spring 2016: Significance for Nebraska

Prairie Wings Fall 2015 Spring 2016 cover low res

Now available! Read the Fall 2015/Spring 2016 issue of Prairie Wings, a publication by Audubon of Kansas.

Cover of Prairie Wings and link to issue

Download or view the entire issue

Significance for Nebraska

Two articles feature the Hutton Niobrara Ranch Wildlife Sanctuary including “A Green Emerald along the Blue Niobrara River” with photos and text by Paul A. Johnsgard. Another highlights the creativity and leadership of seven Lincoln High classmates in their effort to organize and curate the art and artifact gallery attached to the Hutton House—one of two guesthouses located on the sanctuary.

This issue introduces a book written by Lincoln attorney and conservationist Charles E. Wright entitled Law at Little Big Horn: Due Process Denied. The book details the conspiracy between President Grant and Generals Sherman and Sheridan to use the Army to attack and forcibly remove the Sioux and Cheyenne Indians from their treaty lands located north of the North Platte River and east of the Bighorn Mountains. The story is told from the perspective of the Indians and their legal rights, and describes in detail Custer’s defeat at Little Big Horn.

This issue also details a major threat to native grasslands and prairies in the central Great Plains, including Nebraska. Invasive Old World Bluestems (OWBs) introduced in Oklahoma and Texas (and to a lesser degree Kansas) are spreading along roadsides in Kansas and are invading adjacent rangelands. OWBs eliminate/replace virtually all native plants as they expand over grasslands. Although these invasive grasses have been noted along roadsides near McCook and in Pawnee County, Nebraska, land mangers in the state may be able to halt their spread if addressed soon. Caucasian and Yellow Bluestems need to be designated as noxious plants before they are intentionally planted, or introduced with contaminated hay or mulch (as often used on roadsides) by uninformed individuals or agencies. A previous post provides additional detailed information including a video of a workshop featuring the foremost experts on the subject.

Other articles in the 68-page publication detail the importance of shrubs for Bobwhite Quail and songbirds; three articles highlight the importance of habitat for pollinating insects; the “Last of Wild Bison” in the plains; prairie dog conservation and reintroduction of Black-footed Ferrets; protection of streams throughout the region, and involvement in conservation of the Platte River and Niobrara. Read More

Invasive Old World Bluestems: Workshop Video and Information

Invasive Old World Bluestems (OWBs)—including Caucasian and Yellow Bluestems—are a major threat to native grasslands and prairies in the central Great Plains, including those in Kansas and Nebraska. This video of a workshop featuring the foremost experts on the subject provides details on the origin of these invasive plants in the southern/central Great Plains, their impact on native grasslands and associated flora and fauna, and the challenge of control.

The announcement for the April 24, 2015 workshop provides an overview of the program and speakers, including Dr. Karen Hickman, Mitchell Greer and Keith Harmoney. It also includes representative photographs of OWB invasion along a roadside and into native rangeland in the Flint Hills.

With the assistance of conservation partners, Audubon of Kansas organized this workshop at Konza Prairie near Manhattan. It was co-sponsored by the Kansas Wildlife Federation, Kansas Native Plant Society, Protect the Flint Hills, Kansas Land Trust, Grassland Heritage Foundation, Prairie Heritage Inc., and Bird Runner Wildlife Refuge. Two additional workshops were held in Hays and Greensburg, KS.

Implications for Nebraska
Introduced in Oklahoma and Texas (and to a lesser degree in Kansas), OWBs are spreading along roadsides in Kansas and are invading adjacent rangelands in many areas. OWBs eliminate/replace virtually all native plants as they expand over grasslands.  Although these invasive grasses have been noted along roadsides near McCook and in Pawnee County, Nebraska, land managers in the state may be able to halt their spread if addressed soon. Caucasian and Yellow Bluestems need to be designated as noxious plants before they are intentionally planted, or introduced with contaminated hay or mulch (as often used on roadsides) by uninformed individuals or agencies.

Additional Information
Perseverance & Partnerships Critical to the Challenge Emerging from OWB’s Threat to Prairies” by Ron Klataske in the Fall 2015/Spring 2016 edition of PRAIRIE WINGS magazine.

Old World grasses, New World problems” by Michael Pearce in the Wichita Eagle, October 18, 2015

Old World Bluestems threaten native grasslands” by Donna Sullivan in Grass & Grain, May 5, 2015

Sixty-five Prairie Dogs Relocated to Hutton Niobrara Ranch Wildlife Sanctuary

prairie dogs peering out of hole © Ron Klataske

This is a report on the status of our project that involves transferring prairie dogs from the Fort Niobrara National Wildlife Refuge to the 5,000-acre Hutton Niobrara Ranch Wildlife Sanctuary in order to establish a new colony.

We are hoping that the experience and information obtained will help to encourage and/or prove useful to other landowners and managers who want to establish new and/or maintain existing prairie dog colonies—and also benefit many of the associated wildlife species (including Burrowing Owls, Swift Foxes, Ferruginous Hawks, Golden Eagles and Ornate Box Turtles). In particular, success with fencing may prove useful for landowners who want to include it along with other techniques, such as vegetative barriers, to discourage dispersal from existing prairie dog colonies to adjacent areas where they are not wanted.  

Read the full article and view the extensive photo gallery on audubonofkansas.org

Tours of Hutton Niobrara Ranch Wildlife Sanctuary Planned for June 23

Niobrara Sanctuary © Ryan Klataske

Tours of conservation and stewardship initiatives on the 5,000-acre Hutton Niobrara Ranch Wildlife Sanctuary in northern Rock County will be offered to wildlife enthusiasts, conservation partners and others who may be interested on Saturday, June 23.  Tours designed for differing purposes will begin at 7 a.m., 9:30 a.m. and at 2 p.m. with each lasting approximately 2 ½ hours.

Major conservation initiatives have been implemented on the property during the past few years.  Participants on the tour will have an opportunity to view the ecological benefits of several practices employed.

Control of invasive cedars on native rangelands has resulted in the most dramatic transformations of the property.  In addition to expenditure of tens of thousands of dollars to mechanically shear cedars on most of the upland grassland, prescribed burning has been utilized in each of the last two years to eliminate thousands of small cedar seedlings over the landscape and scorch many of the larger cedars on steep slopes and in dense groves.  Native prairie plant communities have quickly responded to the combination of mechanical removal and controlled burning, improving the land for both livestock and many species of wildlife. Read More