The NWTF’s conservation delivery comes in all shapes and sizes; be it a NWTF volunteer mentoring one new hunter, or whether it is using all resources available to bolster landscape-scale initiatives throughout the country, the 100’s of NWTF chapters found in all 50 states play a pivotal role in accomplishing both large and small-scale projects that all intertwine and are crucial to mission success. Another essential role in the NWTF’s conservation delivery is its ability to leverage funds with partners and garner support from similar, like-minded organizations. This type of partner collaboration is especially evident in the on-going Kiowa Creek Ranch land acquisition project in the Wildcat Hills of western Nebraska.
Currently, the NWTF is working in conjunction with Platte River Basin Environments, Inc. and numerous organizations and donors to conserve the 2,600-acre Kiowa Creek Ranch. The property is composed of critical wildlife habitat and, if conserved, will form a contiguous 18,000-acre sprawl of spectacular public lands, benefitting Nebraskans; numerous wildlife species, including wild turkeys, elk, bighorn sheep, deer, mountain lions and hundreds of species of native birds; and substantially elevating both the NWTF and PRBE missions alike.
NWTF Director of Development Steve Donovan is leading the fundraising charge to secure the purchase.
“The NWTF is working closely with PRBE on this project,” Donovan said. “The long-term plan is for PRBE to own and manage the Kiowa Creek tract in combination with other lands in the Wildcat Hills. PRBE is a respected, responsible, successful and well-known conservation organization in western Nebraska.”
Formed decades ago by local sportsmen concerned about the loss and deterioration of wildlife habitats and natural areas in the North Platte River basin, the PRBE is a nonprofit group dedicated to conserving and restoring crucial wildlife habitat and natural areas within Nebraska’s North Platte River basin and adjacent drainages with a commitment to applying sound environmental science and providing opportunities for environmental education.
“PRBE is excited and honored to work, once again, with the NWTF in acquiring an exceptional and critically important wildlife habitat,” said PRBE Board Member Hod Kosman. “Kiowa Creek Ranch includes the headwaters of historic Kiowa Creek and five miles of contiguous border with our conservation lands. This ranch will provide great access and significant opportunities for science, education and recreation.”
(photo taken by Michael Forsberg)
In addition, habitats managed by PRBE are open to a variety of public activities, including hiking, hunting, fishing, bird watching and wildlife photography, among many others.
“We have a long history of partnering with PRBE for land acquisitions to be enjoyed by future generations of Nebraskans and look forward to continuing that partnership with the Kiowa Creek Ranch Project,” said Mark Hatfield, NWTF director of conservation services.
Garnering final support to initiate the purchase is not only crucial to conserving critical habitat for wild turkeys and many other game and non-game species, but will elevate NWTF’s hunting heritage mission throughout the state and substantially increase outdoor opportunities for Nebraskans.
“The acquisition of this tract will also include the existing ranch house and associated outbuildings,” Donovan said. “The NWTF and PRBE are looking forward to using these facilities to host a variety of events, which will include youth outdoor education camps, archeological camps, hunter education courses, wildlife studies and much more.”
In addition to increasing recreational opportunities and protecting vital habitat, the land acquisition will be imperative in improving overall access to the adjacent public lands, as current access to these public lands is difficult and obscure.
“The Kiowa Creek Ranch property is located approximately 15 miles southwest of Scottsbluff and is easily accessible on local roads,” Donovan said. “The proximity of this much contiguous public land to a significant population center—with its unique flora and fauna and ease of access—will make this property an important destination for public recreational activities in a part of Nebraska where such opportunities are limited.”
Funding from other nonprofit organizations were crucial in taking the project from a prospect to very likely. One such donation was a $15,000 grant recently awarded by the Cooper Foundation.
“Supporting the environment is a high priority for the Cooper Foundation, especially the conservation of critical habitats and unique ecosystems within our state,” Cooper Foundation President Victoria Grasso said. “Our grant will help ensure that this beautiful landscape is accessible to the public and protected in perpetuity for generations of Nebraskans to enjoy.”
The Foundation supports strong, sustainable organizations, innovative ideas and ventures of significant promise and awards grants to non-profit organizations located in and working in Nebraska, like the NWTF and the PRBE, that particularly have an emphasis in one or more of the following areas: arts, civic and community engagement, education, environment, human services and humanities.
Likewise, The Hawks Foundation made a generous donation for the land acquisition. Rhonda and Howard Hawks have a long history of supporting a variety of charitable organizations, including wildlife habitat conservation projects.
With immense support from the Cooper Foundation, The Hawks Foundation, private donors and numerous others, the acquisition of the property is looking promising.
“Having secured the grants from the Cooper Foundation and The Hawks Foundation gives us a head of steam in our efforts to help PRBE secure the balance of the funds needed to complete the project,” Donovan said. “Funding from these organizations also provides significant leverage and credibility as we approach other potential donors to secure the final dollars needed to complete the acquisition of the Kiowa Creek property.”
This project will undoubtedly be an overall win for both conservation efforts and Nebraskans alike, but it also illustrates the immense impact of shared stewardship for the greater good. One of the primary reasons the NWTF is so successful in its conservation delivery is how overarching and all-encompassing its mission is, peaking the interest and support from various partners within and outside the conservation and hunting communities.
To find out how you can contribute to this project and other NWTF efforts in Nebraska and elsewhere, contact Steve Donovan at sdonovan@NWTF.net
For more information on how you can be involved with NWTF’s efforts in Nebraska, visit https://www.nwtf.org/about/state/nebraska.