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Refuge System - Planning
Mountain-Prairie Region
Graphic button showing the 8 state mountain prairie region

Land Protection Plan

Proposed Niobrara Confluence Conservation Area
Proposed Ponca Bluffs Conservation Area
Nebraska and South Dakota

Missouri River | Proposed conservation | Niobrara Confluence | Ponca Bluffs
Associated programs | Public involvement | Contacts | Documents
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View of the Missouri River from Ponca State Park, Nebraska.

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

Map of the six geographic areas that occur across the Mountain-Prairie Region.

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.

  • Comprises a proposed area of about 43,300 acres in Albany County, Wyoming.
  • Potential land protection of intact habitats with conservation easements bought from willing sellers.
  • Limited fee-title acquisition to protect wildlife and meet management needs of the refuges.

The project area is part of the high plains basin ecosystem known as the Laramie Basin. Shallow depressions in the flat landscape support marshes and lakes unique to the area. Radiating out from the wetlands are alkali flats, shrublands, native shortgrass prairies, manipulated meadows, and scattered trees.

In-Progress Plan Status

Winter 2012 – Complete

Gather public input


Spring 2012 – Complete

Develop alternatives


Winter 2012 – Complete

Prepare draft plan and environmental impact statement (EIS)


Spring 2013 – Complete

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.

The only wild population of the endangered Wyoming toad is at Mortenson Lake National Wildlife Refuge. Most of the remaining toads, about 500, are in captivity. Recovery requires reintroduction of the toad on Federal lands within its historical range, which the proposed expansion includes. More quality habitat protected for the Wyoming toad would significantly help the recovery of this species.

Large expanses of grassland and shrubland are necessary for other species needing conservation such as burrowing owl, loggerhead shrike, and swift fox. In this semiarid environment, the basin’s wetlands provide a wildlife oasis. Migrating waterfowl and shorebirds head for these areas to rest and refuel. Sandhill cranes, black terns, and other birds nest there.

The proposed project would be part of the Arapaho National Wildlife Refuge Complex. Two comprehensive conservation plans describe management of Arapaho Refuge and Hutton Lake and Mortenson Lake Refuges.


Missouri River »

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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 »

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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 »

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  • 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.


Ponca Bluffs »

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  • 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 »

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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)


Publicinvolvement »

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

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

Public meetings
None at this time.


Contacts »

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

wayne_nelsonstastny@fws.gov
605 / 660 5349 telephone

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

nick_kaczor@fws.gov
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

michael_j_bryant@fws.gov
605 / 487 7603 telephone

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

steve_thede@nps.gov
605 / 665 0209 telephone

Project E-mail
niobrara_ponca@fws.gov

Related Web sites
Lake Andes WMD
Missouri National Recreational River
National Park Service project Web site

 


Documents »

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with Others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American People.
Last modified: November 14, 2019
All Images Credit to and Courtesy of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Unless Specified Otherwise.
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