Graham Crowe Ranch

Holt County

In June of 2023, Nebraska Land Trust completed an easement with Les and Jan Graham on their family ranch. Les and Jan are the 4th generation on the property, and they wanted to ensure that their family legacy of working agriculture remained intact. They also wanted to preserve the conservation value their ranch provides to the region.

Les and Jan explained: “We had a desire to see our grassland stay in its native state and the ranch to be operated as it has always been. A conservation easement seemed to be the option we found to hopefully fulfill that desire. The Nebraska Land Trust shared our vision and were very helpful in guiding us through the process.”

Graham Crowe Ranch is located within one of four core areas of the Great Plains Grassland Initiative through the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS). This initiative is part of a landowner-driven program conserving the remaining grasslands in the Great Plains.

Graham Crowe Ranch is one of the largest grasslands in northeast Nebraska under one owner, with significant conservation value. It’s also considered a biologically unique landscape under Nebraska’s State Wildlife Action Plan. With over 4 miles of Niobrara River frontage, this ranch is part of a network of 22 miles of protection between the ranch and the Niobrara’s confluence with the Missouri River.

The combination of the ranch’s ecological diversity, location and size make it significant to conservation efforts in northeast Nebraska.

Prime habitat for numerous species of conservation concern were identified on the Graham Crowe Ranch by the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, and the following species were observed on the property:

Greater Prairie Chicken

Sharp-tailed Grouse

Bald Eagle

Trumpeter Swans

Wild Turkey

Northern Bobwhite Quail

White-tailed Deer

Here’s what the Nebraska Game and Parks had to say about the significance of the ranch to wildlife conservation:

“The uniqueness of this tract and appropriateness for protection is, we believe, pretty easy to see. There is a long list of considerations which contribute to the ecological value of any given tract of land: size, location within a conservation priority area, diversity of habitats, species richness, presence of at-risk species, proximity and connectivity to other habitats and protected lands, and so on. Not only does the Graham Crowe easement application shine in these categories, its location and the intentions of the landowner make it possible for this property to contribute significantly to larger landscape conservation efforts.”

Conservation of the grassland will also prevent additional center-pivot irrigation development in a region plagued by high nitrates in groundwater, a result of conversion of grassland to cropland. The rare combination of the ranch’s ecological importance, location, size and positive impact for water quality make it one of the most significant conservation projects NLT has ever completed.

This easement was made possible by the following donors and funders:

  • Les and Jan Graham
  • NRCS
  • Plum Creek Wind, LLC
  • Prairie Breeze Wind Energy, LLC
  • Sholes Wind, LLC