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TNC Nebraska manages over 60,000 acres of land. Its programs include prairie restoration, preserving vast native grasslands using bison, cattle and fire as management tools, enhancing unique ecosystems, and battling invasive species.   The Conservancy is using multiple strategies to protect the Platte River, improve conservation on the Missouri River, and protect the wild and scenic characteristics of the Niobrara River.

The Nature Conservancy depends on volunteers like you to achieve its conservation mission and the vision of a world where the diversity of life thrives. At different times of the year and depending on skills and training, volunteers can help with harvesting seed, planting new prairies, controlled burns, removing invasive species, fencing, and many other land management duties.

Volunteering with us is a great way to contribute to the environment, learn more about the natural world while gaining new skills, and meeting people with a shared interest in conservation.

Take time to explore this page and the many volunteer opportunities it describes.

Volunteer Activities

Volunteers can participate in many capacities. These include:

Workday Participant

On workdays at one of the TNC preserves, volunteers will help with a range of tasks, depending on the season and need. Springtime typically ushers in a focus on invasive weeds. By mid-summer through early fall, seed harvesting can take priority. Spreading seed on bare ground for prairie restoration is a winter activity – regardless of snow or ice cover. Fencing can be a year-round activity, if weather conditions are suitable.   Cutting and treating invasive trees also takes place any time of year as long as the weather is tolerable.

Most “workdays” are held on Saturday mornings, but if volunteers are available, other times are possible.

No prior training or special skills are required for workday participants. Some activities such as battling invasive trees can be physically taxing. Participants should bring sturdy shoes, gloves, hats, water bottles, work clothes, sunscreen, and insect repellent. TNC provides tools and supervision.

Workdays are announced by email at least a week in advance.   The email will include the location, describe the activity that is planned, and provide any instructions.   Volunteers should RSVP if they are available to help.

Workday leaders

Individuals who have become familiar with workday procedures are needed to lead a crew of volunteers on workdays. Workday leaders are responsible for unlocking facilities, gathering tools, giving instructions and providing oversight during the event. Workday leaders make sure tools are put back and provide summary reports to TNC staff.

Volunteer Steward

Those with more time and flexible schedules may want to consider a higher level of involvement. Volunteer stewards act as part-time, unpaid workers assisting TNC staff. Activities will include those listed for workday participants but also tasks that require more training, such as using chain saws and other equipment, applying herbicide, controlling phragmites, or assisting with controlled burns.

Although work is part-time and flexible, volunteer stewards should plan to commit to a schedule, such as one or two days per week.

Site Steward

A site steward would assume responsibility for maintaining a specific tract of land. This would involve walking the area at least once a year removing invasive weeds and tree saplings, noting fencing problems, and bringing any other issues to the attention of TNC staff.   Depending on size and other factors, the work could be done all at once or accomplished through multiple trips. Volunteers would build a sense of ownership for the property and could operate alone, request help through workday announcements or recruit volunteers for their projects. Filing status reports after working a site insures good communication with TNC staff.

Volunteers interested in become a site steward must be trustworthy and demonstrate competence in the responsibilities they will undertake. Prior experience as a workday participant or volunteer steward is one means to achieve this.

Conservation Gardener

TNC would welcome someone willing to care for a small demonstration prairie at and a nursery at the Platte River Prairies. Duties include watering, mulching, weeding, transplanting, and mowing.

Invasive Plant Mapping

Volunteers would patrol properties by foot or vehicle using GPS technology to record infestations of musk thistle, Canada thistle, reed canary grass, phragmites, crown vetch, birdsfoot trefoil, leafy spurge, and invasive trees. Training on plant identification, GPS devices, and ATV use is required.

Crane Tours

Volunteers are needed every year to assist with crane tours during the spring migration. Help is needed with setup, conducting the tour, and cleanup. Some knowledge about Sandhill Crane migration is helpful. People skills are also important.

To volunteer, submit this form   volunteer-app-2016    to  Mardell Jasnowski at mjasnowski@tnc.org

For questions email or call  Mardell at mjasnowski@tnc.org     402.694.4191 , or Steve at stevenlschafer@gmail.com

Nebraska Volunteer Sites:

Niobrara Valley Preserve

The Nature Conservancy’s Niobrara Valley Preserve is one of the largest Conservancy preserves in the U.S., and a model for grassland management using bison, cattle and fire. It encompasses majestic pine-clad canyons, extensive grasslands, and a 25-mile stretch of the Niobrara River. Visitors can enjoy the beauty of the preserve year-round, and of special interest is the bison herd grazing in the vast open prairie. The Nebraska Natural Heritage Program identified the Niobrara Valley Preserve as the biological crossroads of the Great Plains. To date, 581 plant, 213 bird, 86 lichen, 70 butterfly, 44 mammal, 25 fish, 17 reptile and 8 amphibian species have been recorded at the Preserve.

From Ainsworth, drive west 10 miles on U.S Highway 20, then 16 miles north on the country road towards Norden. The Preserve headquarters is on the south side of the Niobrara River, 8 miles south of Norden or 16 miles north of Johnstown. These are gravel roads — please drive with care. Download a map of the preserve location (PDF, 80 KB).

Platte River Prairies

Located between Grand Island and Kearney, Nebraska, The Nature Conservancy’s Platte River Prairies are a chain of grasslands and wetlands that are managed for biological diversity. The Conservancy owns ten tracts of land totaling 4,981 acres along the Platte River, and has four easements on 2,816 more. We’ve restored about 1,500 acres of cropland to high-diversity prairie in an effort to enlarge and reconnect fragments of native prairie – and now we manage them with a combination of prescribed fire and grazing.

The stretch of the Platte River known as the Big Bend Reach is the most important migratory bird area along the United States portion of the Central Flyway of North America. The Platte and its adjacent wet meadows in the Big Bend region provide habitat for millions of migratory birds including some 500,000 Sandhill cranes and millions of ducks and geese.

Location; 13650 South Platte River Drive, Wood River, Nebraska 68883 , TNC’s Derr Facility(on I-80 take exit 300; go south approx. 2 miles; turn right onto South Platte River Dr.; big red brick house on top of the hill.)  Public trails begin here.

What can I expect when I volunteer?

  • Expect to either be working with experienced staff members or volunteer workday leaders who will provide direction. Tasks will depend on the season and need. Common activities include controlling invasive weeds, harvesting seed, fence repair, and removing invasive trees.
  • Expect to meet and work with people who share your interest in nature and preserving prairies.
  • Expect beautiful scenery, fresh air, working outside with your hands, and sleeping well the night after a workday.

When ?

    • Workdays are announced a week to ten days in advance by email

What should I bring?

  • Bring sturdy work shoes, long pants, work gloves and a bottle of drinking water year-round. Dress for the weather, layers in the winter and a brimmed hat and sunscreen are recommended in the summer.
  • All necessary equipment and tools will be provided.

How can I learn more?

  • To find out about workday changes and cancellations or to be added to the weekly workday notification email list, contact Mardell Jasnowski at (402) 694-4191 or by email (MJASNOWSKI@TNC.ORG).