The Loess Canyons Rangeland Alliance will receive $140,000 from the Nebraska Environmental Trust for its Prescribed Fire project.
The canyon landscape southeast of North Platte has been overrun by eastern red cedar trees, with some properties 70% covered, or more.
The Prescribed Fire project helps landowners and burn associations restore ecological resiliency and rangeland productivity by removing cedars, creating firebreaks, deferring grazing, and working with local associations to return fire to the ecosystem, said Julie Gieser of the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.
The Loess Canyons is a 338,000 acres of largely unfragmented mixed-grass prairie and wooded canyons, deep, fertile soils and valuable forage resources.
Family-owned ranches are stewards of the land, the cattle and 29 unique “species of concern” that thrive there, Gieser said.
Landowners, burn associations and resource professionals aspire toward the goal of burning 33,000 acres per year.
The Loess Canyons Rangeland Alliance consists of about 45 private landowners, as well as employees of the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Twin Platte Natural Resources District, Natural Resources Conservation Service and others.
The LCRA seeks to create more than $1 million worth of restoration, removing more than 4,000 acres of invasive trees and facilitating 300,000 acres of prescribed fire, using grants and matching funds.
Burn boss Scott Stout said 90,000-100,000 acres has been burned so far. Two burns of a total of 2,500 acres were conducted this spring, and more are planned in late summer and fall.
No burns are conducted during the migratory bird season, May 1 – July 15, Stout said.
The Loess Canyons is identified as a biologically unique landscape by the Nebraska Natural Legacy Project and a focus area for a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service program.
The Nebraska Environmental Trust was created in 1992 by the Nebraska Legislature.
Using revenue from the Nebraska Lottery, the trust has provided more than $305 million in grants to more than 2,200 projects across the state.
The Nebraska Environmental Trust works to preserve, protect and restore natural resources for future generations, Gieser said.
Anyone can apply for environmental trust funding to protect habitat, improve water quality and establish recycling programs in Nebraska.
The Trust board of directors announced funding for the Prescribed Fire project at its meeting on April 4 in Lincoln. This is the third year of a three-year grant, Stout said.
The project is one of 117 projects receiving $19.5 million in grant awards from the Nebraska Environmental Trust this year.