Resource Management

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Management of Fort Niobrara NWR focuses on conserving native birds, bison, elk, and the biological diversity of the area.  To help plants and wildlife, refuge staff use a variety of habitat management techniques to maintain, recover or enhance plant and wildlife values. Refuge staff carefully consider any management techniques and employ them in varying degrees according to the situation.


Fort Niobrara NWR management includes many diverse techniques. Through the grassland and fenced management program, the bison and elk herds are managed under natural conditions to assure a genetically sound breeding population, provide appropriate viewing opportunities for public enjoyment, and support scientific studies.  Bison are an ideal management “tool” because they range over large areas, eat and trample a variety of prairie plants, and turn the soil with their wallowing. This disturbance helps keep native prairie communities diverse and healthy. Refuge lands, however, can only support a certain number of bison. To keep the bison herd in balance with its food supply and meet the habitat requirements of other wildlife, about 120 bison are sold at auction or donated each fall.

Grassland habitat management strategies are designed to maintain or improve grassland health and provide forage for bison and elk. Approximately 50 miles of interior fence and 50 miles of boundary fence (perimeter, river corridor, and road right-of-way) are used to control timing of grazing and movement of the fenced animals. In addition, prescribed fire plays a significant role in the management of these native grasslands.  Prescribed fire and planned periods of rest, or non-disturbance, are used in combination with grazing by bison and elk in an effort to mimic the historic processes that helped shape the native plant communities of the Refuge.

Other habitat management on the Refuge strives to maintain the existing diversity and abundance of various native birds and other wildlife by providing a mosaic of habitat conditions. Biological monitoring of native birds and other wildlife is carried out to the greatest extent possible with current staffing and management priorities.

Public involvement and input are important to us and to the planning process, and we hope you will take an active interest in the process, individually and as a community.