The 71,516-acre Valentine National Wildlife Refuge is located in the Sandhills of north-central Nebraska. The Refuge is a unique and ecologically important component of the National Wildlife Refuge System (System) which includes over 500 refuges totaling approximately 93 million acres across the United States. The native grass prairie and wetlands found here support a diversity of wildlife. Little has changed from historic times. The Refuge was established by Congress in 1935 “as a breeding ground for migratory birds and other wildlife.” The Refuge is home to 270 species of birds, 59 species of mammals, and 22 species of reptiles and amphibians.
The Refuge has been recognized with several special designations.
Research Natural Areas
Two research natural areas are located on the Refuge, the George Wiseman Natural Area and Natural Area 2. Located south of Hackberry and Dewey Lakes, they have a combined total size of 1,381 acres and are closed to public access. Research Natural Areas preserve plant and animal communities in a natural state for research purposes. Activities are limited to research, study, observation, monitoring, and educational activities that maintain unmodified conditions.
In 1973, a portion of the Refuge was recommended for inclusion in the National Wilderness Preservation System. The 15,937 acre proposed wilderness is located in the southwest portion of the Refuge. The proposal includes two large lakes, Dad’s and Mule, and several smaller ones. The smaller lakes are bordered by marshes while Dad’s Lake, one of the largest natural lakes in the Sandhills, is bordered on the south by a narrow strip of trees and brush and high sandy hills. The area is very scenic with the native grasses, undeveloped lakes, high choppy sand hills, and feeling of isolation and the expanse of the prairie. Man-made structures in the wilderness consist of a few windmills and tanks, electric and barbed wire fences. The area of the Refuge proposed for designation as Wilderness is to be managed according to the Wilderness Act of 1964 which requires wilderness areas to be managed in a natural condition for solitude or a primitive and unconfined type of recreation., until such a time as Congress either officially designates the area as Wilderness or drops it from further consideration for designation.
The Refuge became a Registered Natural Landmark in 1979. The National Natural Landmarks Program recognizes and encourages the conservation of sites that contain outstanding biological and geological resources. National Natural Landmarks are selected for their outstanding condition, illustrative value, rarity, diversity, and value to science and education. Sites are designated by the Secretary of the Interior. (www.nature.nps.gov/nnl).
Important Bird Area
In 2005, Valentine National Wildlife Refuge was designated a Nebraska Important Bird Area (IBA) by the Audubon Society. The IBA program is an inventory of the key sites within a state that support significant numbers and high diversity of birds. The IBA program is a conservation and education effort of the National Audubon Society and has no regulatory authority. Our application was reviewed by a technical committee which commented on the high diversity of species and the large population of greater prairie chickens found on Valentine National Wildlife Refuge.
The Refuge is also recognized as an Important Bird Area by the American Bird Conservancy (www.abcbirds.org).
Top Ecotourism Site
In 2012, Nebraska’s Center for Great Plains Studies included Valentine National Wildlife Refuge as one of the Great Plains Top 50 Ecotourism Sites. An ecotourism site is defined as a place primarily devoted to environmental or biodiversity conservation and providing an opportunity for the public to experience nature. Professional naturalists named sites considered to offer the best, most powerful environmental experience or are ones that are ecologically the most important. The Center recognizes the importance of ecotourism in helping nearby communities to thrive economically, increasing public awareness of nature, and generating funding for conservation. More information is available at www.unl.edu/plains.
Valentine National Wildlife Refuge
39679 Pony Lake Road
Valentine, Nebraska 69201
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