Board Members

Sandhills Task Force Board members are selected in accordance to established bylaws. Nine of the members are associated with ranching while the other six are non-ranchers. Board members serve life-long terms or until they chose to resign.

Top row (L to R): Ted LaGrange (Nebraska Game and Parks), Tim McAbee (rancher), Bethany Jonstson (rancher), Barb Cooksley (rancher), Dave Sands (Nebraska Land Trust), Jack Andersen (rancher), Shelly Kelly (Program Director).
Bottom row (L to R): Doug Christensen (Nebraska NRCS), Ben Bailey (rancher), AB Cox (rancher), John Ravenscroft (rancher), Homer Buell (rancher), Mike Kelly (rancher), Kenny Dinan (US Fish and Wildlife Service)

Current STF Board Members

  • Ben Bailey – Lakeside, NE – Rancher
  • Melody Benjamin – Lakeside, NE – Rancher
  • Homer Buell, Vice President – Bassett, NE – Rancher/Nebraska Cattlemen
  • Doug Christensen – Lincoln, NE – Natural Resources Conservation Service
  • Barb Cooksley – Anselmo, NE – Rancher
  • A. B. Cox, President – Mullen, NE – Rancher
  • John Denton – Grand Island, NE – Ducks Unlimited
  • Kenny Dinan – Alma, NE – U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
  • Greg Gehl – Ericson, NE – Rancher
  • Eric Hansen – North Platte, NE – Rancher
  • Bethany Johnston – Thedford, NE – Rancher
  • Ted LaGrange – Lincoln, NE – Nebraska Game & Parks Commission
  • Tim McAbee – Hyannis, NE – Rancher
  • John Ravenscroft, Secretary/Treasurer – Nenzel, NE – County Commissioner
  • Dave Sands – Lincoln, NE – Nebraska Land Trust
  • Vacant


  • Shelly Kelly – Program Director

Growing up on a family Sandhill ranching and farming operation near Brewster helped Shelly gained a sincere appreciation for the Sandhills ecosystem and the associated ranching industry. A college degree in Range Science from South Dakota State University and previous employment with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) as Range Management Specialist in North Platte and other locations allowed her to gain new perspectives about ranching and conservation and how the two can fit together. She has a passion to ensure ranching remains viable in the Sandhills and that the grassland remains intact. To do this, Shelly has established a broad network of peers, professionals, and ranchers that can all work together to achieve the common goal of conserving our natural resources while remaining profitable and maintaining the ranching way of life.Shelly started working for the Sandhills Task Force in 2014 and operates out of her home. She is responsible to promote the Sandhills Task Force, acquire grants and funds for projects, coordinate with partner agencies/groups, and oversee all projects. Shelly and her son Conley live near Broken Bow, Nebraska.


  • Ashley Garrelts – Project Coordinator

Ashley comes to the Nebraska Sandhills from Wyoming, where she grew up on a hay and cattle farm near Torrington.  She attended the University of Wyoming, earning a bachelor’s of science degree in Animal Science with an emphasis in rangeland management.  She furthered her education there and obtained a Masters of Science degree is Rangeland Ecology and Watershed Management.  After graduating she worked for two years with the Utah Natural Resources Conservation Service as a Rangeland Management Specialists on a Soil Survey crew, contracted by the National Park Service.  While there s e was a contributing author on many Ecological Site Descriptions and State and Transition Models for the Colorado Plateau.  In 2008 she moved back to Wyoming and took a position with the University of Wyoming Extension and specialized in the area of rangeland and livestock management.  This allowed her the experience of working with ranchers and other landowners across East Central Wyoming.  Her passion of working with women landowners and helping them learn new technologies was a focus for her programming.  Ashley started working for the Sandhills Task Force in 2018.  Most days she can be found in her truck in the Sandhills coordinating the many cost share programs that the Task Force is involved in.  She is an animal lover and lives in Broken Bow, NE, with her two dogs (a Dachshund and an Australian Shepherd mix) and two cats.