Nebraska Game and Parks Commission


Date of this Version



Steinauer, Gerry. February 16, 1995. Identification and Conservation Strategy for Sandhills Fens in Cherry County Nebraska. Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. 110 pp.


In the Sandhills, fens are generally found in two locations: in stream valleys often near the headwaters and at the upper end of Sandhills lakes and marshes. In both areas groundwater discharge into the valleys can be abundant, and in some cases, has led to the development of fens on the valley floor. A few Sandhills fens approach 500 ac (200 ha) in size and are among the largest fens in the Great Plains. Most Sandhills fens are smaller, some only a few acres (ha) or less in size.

Human disturbances including ditching, artificial flooding, annual haying, overgrazing, invasion of exotic plant species, and road development are present at nearly all fens. Because they are groundwater-fed, threats to groundwater quality and quantity are also threats to fens. Restoration potential rankings of high, moderate, and low were assigned to all surveyed fens. Restoration of fens will require restoring a more natural hydrology and vegetative composition than currently exists.

Where possible, strategies to protect Sandhills fens should follow guidelines outlined in the Sandhills Management Plan developed by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. The plan is an initiative to conserve the Sandhills wetland-grassland ecosystem in a manner that sustains a profitable ranching economy. Four broad management strategies are outlined in the proposal. They include 1) education and technical assistance for landowners, 2) acquisition of key sites, 3) development of legislation to protect the resources, and 4) financial support for landowners.