U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Division of Refuge Planning
Mountain-Prairie Region

In-Progress Plan Status


Winter 2012

Gather public input


Spring 2012

Develop alternatives


Winter 2012

Prepare draft plan and environmental impact statement (EIS)


Spring 2013

Release draft plan and EIS for public review
Notice of availability in Federal Register


Spring 2014

Complete environmental review and final EIS
Notice of availability in Federal Register


Summer 2014

Issue record of decision
Notice of availability in Federal Register


Fall 2014

Complete final plan


Information about the planning process is in Planning Overview. Terms are in the Glossary.

Land Protection Plan

Proposed Niobrara Confluence Conservation Area

Proposed Ponca Bluffs Conservation Area

Nebraska and South Dakota


We and the National Park Service are proposing to conserve segments of the Missouri River in northeastern Nebraska and southeastern South Dakota.

We do land protection planning to look at individual land tracts as well as lands across the landscape.

Working side by side with communities and willing landowners would be essential to conserve the natural resource, recreational, and cultural values.

Missouri River

Historically, the Missouri River was a dynamic ecosystem. The free-flowing river created channels and sandbars in prairie, wetland, and forest habitats. Structures and human activities have changed many of these natural processes. However, portions of the river have shown resiliency, and habitats still provide for a rich diversity of plants and animals. Migratory birds find important habitat in the Missouri River’s combination of open water, floodplain wetlands, and river vegetation.

Proposed conservation

Long-term leases, conservation easements, and land acquisition would preserve and improve the natural processes of the Missouri River. Perpetual conservation easements would be the primary means of habitat protection. Lands under conservation easements would be protected from development to ensure their restoration or preservation. The resulting increase in wildlife habitat, protection of important cultural sites, and improved access for recreation would benefit visitors, neighbors, and local communities. Protection of habitat would ensure the survival of Federal trust species such as the endangered pallid sturgeon and the threatened piping plover. These conservation efforts would not increase regulations or alter dam operations.

Niobrara Confluence

  • Comprises a Missouri River segment between the Fort Randall Dam and the Running Water Bridge and upstream on the Niobrara River to the Spencer Dam.
  • Remains unchannelized, relatively free-flowing, and undeveloped.
  • Provides important habitat for at least 60 native fish species and 26 sport fish species.
  • Contains riparian woodlands and islands important for about 25 resident bird species and 115 migratory bird species.  
Photo of a single leafless tree in a flat grassland with snow-covered mountains and a full moon in the background.

View of the Missouri River from Ponca State Park, Nebraska.

Ponca Bluffs

  • Comprises a Missouri River segment from Gavins Point Dam to Sioux City, Iowa.
  • Consists of a diverse, relatively unaltered river and floodplain ecosystem.
  • Provides riparian, island, wetland, and forest habitats as well as pastureland and cropland.
  • Supports a variety of wildlife similar to the Niobrara Confluence.  

Associated programs

This project would coordinate proposed conservation efforts with activities of these current programs tied to Missouri River resources:

  • Karl E. Mundt National Wildlife Refuge and Lake Andes Wetland Management District
    (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)
  • Missouri National Recreational River
    (National Park Service)
  • Missouri River Recovery Program
    (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers)
  • Niobrara State Park, Ponca State Park, and several wildlife management areas
    (Nebraska Game and Parks Commission)
  • Several wildlife areas and three recreation areas
    (South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks)

Public involvement

You can contact us by comment form, email, postal mail, telephone, or fax (refer to Contacts below).

To hear from us about this planning effort, you can get on our mailing list.

Public meetings
None at this time.


Local project coordinator
Wayne Nelson-Stastny
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
55245 Northeast Highway 121
Crofton, Nebraska 68730

605 / 660 5349 telephone

Planning team leader
Nick Kaczor
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
6550 Gateway Road
Commerce City, Colorado 80022

303 / 289 0334 telephone

District manager
Mike Bryant
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Lake Andes Wetland Management District
38672 291st Street
Lake Andes, South Dakota 57356

605 / 487 7603 telephone

Park superintendent
Steve Thede
National Park Service
Missouri National Recreational River
508 East 2nd Street
Yankton, South Dakota 57078

605 / 665 0209 telephone

Project email: niobrara_ponca@fws.gov

Related Web sites
Missouri National Recreational River
National Park Service project Web site


Draft environmental impact statement (EIS) and land protection plan (LPP)
Draft EIS and LPP 2013 (14 MB PDF)

By section, for faster download:
Contents and Summary (PDF)
Draft EIS Chapter 1, Introduction (1 MB PDF)
Draft EIS Chapter 2, History, Vision, and Goals (PDF)
Draft EIS Chapter 3, Alternatives (8 MB PDF)
Draft EIS Chapter 4, Affected Environment (PDF)
Draft EIS Chapter 5, Environmental Consequences (1 MB PDF)
Appendixes (1 MB PDF)
Draft LPP and Bibliography (9 MB PDF)

Planning process documents
News release 2 2013
Planning update 1 2013 (1 MB PDF)
Notice of availability of the draft EIS 2013 (PDF)
News release 1 2012 (PDF)
Fact sheet 2012 (1 MB PDF)
Notice of intent to prepare an LPP 2012 (PDF)
Fact sheet 2011 (PDF)