Public and Private Partnership – Bluewing Wildlife Management Area
Wetland restoration in the Rainwater Basin region is often complicated and involves designing projects that need to take into consideration multiple private landowners. On occasion, a project comes along that requires coordination between private landowners, wildlife managers on Waterfowl Production Areas or Wildlife Management Areas (WMA), and other state and federal entities. Such is the case with a wetland in the eastern Rainwater Basin region owned by the Grove Family. In the fall of 2017, the Grove Family was presented with a plan to restore their portion of the hydric soil footprint by removing 47 acres of large cottonwood trees, removing a large silt plume and old road bed from the hydric soils, and installing a fence and livestock watering system for future grazing.
The plan presented to the family involved excavating approximately 28,000 cubic yards of soil material removed from the basin. This work presents an interesting challenge; what to do with 28,000 cubic yards of soil material? The soil cannot be spoiled within the hydric soil footprint so it must be deposited on upland sites if upland sites are available. In this case, upland wasn’t available, so the partners began looking for places to deposit the excavated material. When looking for areas to deposit material, pit fills in the watershed of Bluewing WMA were a logical option, however past watershed restoration activities already filled this need. In addition, a portion of the material was already obligated to a private lands pit within the watershed to the north and the contractor hauled excess spoil off site to several pits that were on his farm. Another option was to place the fill material in an L-shaped pit owned by the Grove Family. A portion of the pit was within the hydric soil footprint and presented an opportunity to not only restore hydrology to the wetland by filling the pit, but also restore a portion of the wetland.
A portion of the soil, used for the Landowners’ pit fill, was derived from excavation activities on Bluewing WMA, where waterways were created to tie moist soil units together. Fencing along the project boundaries, as well as the WMA, required removal of an old shelterbelt in order to move the fence to the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission’s property boundary. Fence was installed around the Grove Family’s wetland restoration project, as well as a livestock watering system, so the Landowners can manage the wetland using grazing.
In summary, the Landowners, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Ducks Unlimited, Rainwater Basin Joint Venture, and the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission worked together to restore and enhance 75.5 acres of wetland habitat and 1.3 acres of upland habitat on private lands and 2.6 acres of wetland habitat on public lands. The partners to this project worked together to maximize restoration potential on private and public lands and maximize cost-share for restoration and enhancement activities. Once unusable by the Landowners due to tree encroachment and other invasive vegetation, this property now provides habitat for migratory waterbirds, as well as opportunities for the Landowners to benefit financially through grazing management.