Western Wheatgrass

Western wheatgrass, with its characteristic blue green hue, is common throughout the Lacreek National Wildlife Refuge's uplands.

There are approximately 4,900 acres of native grasses, of which 3,726 acres are in the Nebraska Sandhills. Big bluestem, little bluestem, sand bluestem, prairie sandreed, switchgrass, Indiangrass, Canada wildrye, June grass, sand dropseed, needle and thread grass, western wheatgrass, salt grass, among others and numerous native forbs have all been noted on Refuge grassland transects. The Sandhills' portion of the Refuge contain a diverse component of grass and forb species generally not found anywhere else on the Refuge. The Refuge contains approximately 5,450 acres of exotic, introduced grass species. Smooth brome and crested wheatgrass are the primary exotic grasses followed by Kentucky bluegrass. During the 1930's, large fields formerly planted to crops were planted to crested wheatgrass to minimize soil erosion. Many of these large, crested wheatgrass fields remain on the Refuge.

In the early 1970's, habitat management techniques were developed to provide dense nesting cover for waterfowl. Several areas on the Refuge were planted to grass species such as smooth bromegrass and alfalfa. These fields provided good cover for nesting birds; however, the species composition consisted of exotic cool season grasses. Over time, these fields were invaded by Canada thistle, a non-native species. The Refuge has plans to restore these grasslands, along with the crested wheat grass fields, to native grasses and forbs. The native prairie restoration process generally involves cropping the field for several years to eliminate exotic cool season grasses, control Canada thistle and other noxious weeds, and prepare a seed bed for planting native grass seed.

Upland vegetation is maintained to provide nesting habitat for migratory birds (waterfowl and neotropical migrants) and resident bird species. Upland habitats also provide necessary habitat requirements for resident wildlife throughout the year. A variety of management techniques have been implemented to maintain and enhance upland habitat conditions on the Refuge including the use of prescribed fire, grazing, haying, native prairie restoration, and invasive species management