There is perhaps no one who understands the unique relationship between land, water, wildlife and people better than the ranchers of the Nebraska Sandhills.
“I believe the Sandhills is the best example of a resilient system that we have available,” said Shelly Kelly, program director for the Sandhills Task Force.
The Sandhills Task Force began in 1993 as a group of people concerned about the future of the Sandhills. Their goal is to enhance the sandhill wetland-grassland ecosystem in a way that sustains private ranching, wildlife and vegetative diversity and associated water supplies. This is achieved through efforts to secure financing for conservation projects, organizing workshops and other educational activities and partnering on research projects.
The group has been involved in over 200 projects over its 26-year history. By tapping into its large pool of partners from these projects, the Sandhills Task Force has also been able to assist researchers from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. Often this means helping researchers get access to the land. Currently the group is very focused on eastern redcedar invasion and is working on research with Dirac Twidwell, rangeland ecologist in the Department of Agronomy and Horticulture.
Kelly attributes the success of the Task Force to its 16 board members and their focus on holistic approaches. They believe that a successful ranch requires a good ecosystem.
“What’s kept us successful through the years is that the majority our board members are ranchers – ranchers that have been on the land for generations and know that operating their business means relying on a healthy landscape.”