U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Division of Refuge Planning
Mountain-Prairie Region

Completed Plan Contacts

The Service completed this plan
in 1999.



Fort Niobrara National Wildlife Refuge
Hidden Timber Road
HC 14, Box 67
Valentine, Nebraska 69201


402 / 376 3789



Comprehensive Conservation Plan

Fort Niobrara National Wildlife Refuge



The comprehensive conservation plan sets the management and use of Fort Niobrara National Wildlife Refuge for 15 years. The refuge is located in north-central Nebraska. Bisected by the Niobrara River, Fort Niobrara National Wildlife Refuge is the only place in North America where five distinct ecotones merge: sandhills prairie, mixed-grass prairie, Rocky Mountain coniferous forest, eastern deciduous forest, and northern boreal forest.

The purposes of the refuge are to (1) preserve breeding grounds for native birds, (2) preserve bison and elk herds representative of those that once roamed the Great Plains, and (3) manage wilderness with equal consideration in management decisions.

  • Established in 1912.
  • Comprises 19,131 acres, including the 4,635-acre Fort Niobrara Wilderness.
  • Located adjacent to the city of Valentine in Cherry County, 5 miles south of the South Dakota border.

The sandhills and prairies of this refuge are excellent habitat for the bison and elk managed by the refuge, as well as for many resident and migratory bird species. Water impoundments and the riparian habitats of the Niobrara River and its tributaries provide breeding and migrating habitats for a wide variety of songbirds, as well as feeding and loafing grounds for elk, deer, and other upland mammals. The Niobrara National Scenic River is a 76-mile stretch of the river, including the portion in the refuge. In addition, part of the Niobrara River passing through the refuge is a national canoe trail.

Image of the plan cover showing several bison grazing in a grassland.

Plan cover showing grazing bison.

Major actions in the comprehensive conservation plan follow:

  • Focus management on bison and elk herds by moving the Texas longhorn cattle to sites more suitable outside the refuge.
  • Work with watercraft outfitters to improve the river use experience while protecting the wild and scenic river quality and the wildlife that use and depend on refuge habitats.
  • Study and consider reintroducing the bighorn sheep to its former range in the Fort Niobrara Wilderness.
  • Study and consider reintroducing the blowout penstemon to suitable refuge habitats.


Comprehensive conservation plan (CCP)
CCP 1999 (4 MB PDF)

By section, for faster download:
Plan (1 MB PDF)
Appendixes (3 MB PDF)

Draft CCP and environmental assessment (EA)
Draft CCP and EA 1999 (PDF)