2021 Volunteer Fire Dept Prescribed Fire Award

Once again, the Sandhills Task Force is offering a Recognition Award for all Sandhills-based Volunteer Fire Departments (VFDs) for the 2021 prescribed fire season. VFDs who assist private landowners with prescribed fire to control invasive plants species, primarily eastern red cedar trees, are eligible. Cedars are robbing ranchers of forage and they are disrupting native plant and animal populations. They are taking over many acres of the Nebraska Sandhills. Prescribed fire is a great tool that can be used to control invasive cedar trees, but some landowners feel they do not have the necessary protection to assure the fire does not escape. VFDs have equipment and volunteers that can help landowners safely conduct prescribed burns while simultaneously training VFD volunteers in use of equipment, fire behavior, fire weather implications, and more in a non-emergency setting. Controlling cedars with prescribed fire is proven to reduce the likelihood and severity of future wildfires, so helping burn cedars in a prescribed setting can pay dividends for VFDs. Local VFDs are staffed by busy volunteers that donate large amounts of personal time in service to their communities and budgets are very tight, so the Sandhills Task Force would like to recognize those VFDs who do assist in controlling cedar tree invasion using prescribed fire. Reimbursement will be at a rate of $15 per burned acre, with a maximum payment of $5,000 per VFD to spread the awards geographically. More than one VFD may split the award. Participation is defined as providing at least one truck and two trained personnel on a prescribed fire in the Sandhills. Personnel need to be actively involved.
The form must be fully completed, signed by the VFD Chief, and mailed or emailed to the address listed with a copy of the approved burn plan (including map). WRP and CRP lands are not eligible. Private lands only. Funds are not available if a contractor is hired to complete the prescribed burn. Available funds are limited.

Applications will be accepted on a continuous basis. Only complete applications will be considered. Application does
not guarantee award. Prescribed fire must be inside the boundary shown in the map below to be eligible for award.

Please contact Shelly for any questions at shelly@sandhillstaskforce.org or 308-214-0065

VFD Prescribed Fire Award Application 2021

Prescribed fires must occur in the shaded area to qualify for the award

Register for the Sandhills Working Lands For Wildlife Informational Meeting

This meeting is designed to kick off and highlight Nebraska’s Eastern Sandhills Working Lands for Wildlife Initiative. The meeting will include an overview of the landscape, threats, past successes, current conditions, and future opportunities on private lands in the eastern Sandhills. Come learn more about the win-win opportunities associated with ranching for cattle production and habitat for numerous species of animals and plants.

February 13th, 2017; 9:30 AM – 2:30 PM Landowner informational meeting and luncheon with optional tour from 2:30 – 4:30 PM at Calamus Outfitters, 83720 Valleyview Ave., Burwell, NE 68823

Sandhills Project Fact Sheet


Agenda (February 13th, 2017)
9:30 AM Welcome and overview of Switzer Ranch – Sarah Sortum
9:40 AM Welcome to today’s event – Jessi Herrmann and Shelly Kelly
10:00 AM An overview of Nebraska’s Sandhills habitats, species, and importance of ranching sustaining these resources – Bill Vodehnal and Tad Judge
10:30 AM Threats to the Sandhills including grassland management, and invasion of Eastern Red Cedar – Dirac Twidwell
11:00 AM Working Lands for Wildlife overview Seven elements and building off the Sage Grouse Initiative and Lesser Prairie Chicken Initiative –Tim Griffiths
11:30 AM Lunch with Sage Grouse Initiative or Lesser Prairie Chicken Initiative participant testimonial
12:30 PM Nebraska’s Working Lands for Wildlife Initiative Overview –Ritch Nelson
12:45 PM Nebraska Landowner participant panel – Homer Buell, Greg Gail, Bruce Switzer
1:30 PM What is the future – Panel discussion (landowners and conservationists)
2:30 PM Optional Tour (2 hours)

Press Release

Ranchers and Landowners Invited to Informational Meeting about the Working Lands for Wildlife Program

LINCOLN, Jan. 18, 2018 – The eastern red cedar is a tree landowners have a love/hate relationship with. They love its hardy nature, but hate how quickly it can take over pastures reducing valuable grazing acres. As landowners in the Sandhills know, managing cedar trees takes dedication, and lots of time. The new Working Lands for Wildlife program can help.

Ranchers and landowners are invited to learn more about the Working Lands for Wildlife program at an informational meeting on Feb. 13 from 9:30 A.M. until 2:30 P.M. at the Calamus Outfitters located at 83720 Valleyview Ave., Burwell, Neb.

This event will share information on how the Working Lands for Wildlife program provides funding to help landowners manage invasive eastern red cedars, install planned grazing systems and improve wildlife habitat. To register, visit www.SandhillsTaskForce.org or call/text Shelly Kelly at (308) 214-0065. Registration is free of charge for ranchers and landowners, but preregistration is required since lunch will be provided.

The Working Lands for Wildlife program is available through the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). The program had dedicating funding to 10 counties in the Sandhills (see map) to help landowners manage eastern red cedar trees through grazing management, mechanical removal and conducting controlled burns. Funding is also available to help install grazing systems, which helps improve grassland health and wildlife habitat.

NRCS is working with the Sandhills Task Force, Nebraska Cattlemen, and many other conservation agency partners through this program to help ranchers in the eastern Sandhills increase rangeland health. A healthier landscape benefits many species including the greater prairie chicken and the American burying beetle while also helping improve the ranch’s bottom line.

Landowners located within the Working Lands for Wildlife Sandhills initiative 10-county area are encouraged to attend this meeting to learn more.