Importance of Natural Resources

Wildcat Hills – a Nebraska Story

♪ MUSIC ♪ (Bird cry) ♪ MUSIC ♪ NARRATOR: As the sun rises
over the Rocky buttes of the Wildcat Hills, one of the most diverse
ecosystems anywhere begins another day. Inside a nearby
nature center, young visitors get a sense of
how the wildlife living in this ecosystem prepare
for the upcoming winter. Amanda Filipi
specializes in guiding the next generation
of explorers. And she’s hoping
to give them the same love for the area that she developed
when she first came here. AMANADA FILIPI: I packed up my
car and got a job out here about seven years ago and
expecting it to look like a majority of the state – kind of flat and
a lot of crop grounds, but when you come up over those
hills you see those rocky buttes and those pine woodlands and it’s just different than the rest of the state. It kind of gives you a little
bit of some goose bumps. This has some unique
geological type formations. It’s considered a
biologically unique landscape in the
state of Nebraska. It’s the only place in the state where you’re gonna
find these type of formations, these type of habitats,
the critters. So it has everything you need
in one small little place. NARRATOR: The State
Recreation Area has nearly 4 miles in trails and a
thousand acres in all but the actual landscape of
the Wildcat Hills extends much further. PAT REECE:
It’s absolutely unique. The Wildcat Hills runs 35 to 40
miles long. It runs through three
different counties in the Nebraska Panhandle. You would have to
drive a long ways to find anything
like this. NARRATOR: As a Rangeland
Ecologist, Pat Reece has an intimate relationship with the land. REECE: Within the
Great Plains, it’s extremely rare to find
combinations of the species that are here. When we talk about the
mountain species, we have a lot of Ponderosa Pine, the Rocky Mountain Juniper. Species like Mountain
Mahogany and on the wildlife side,
oh my goodness. I love watching birds,
Mountain Bluebirds. Townsend Solitaires. Red Crossbills. It’s just absolutely
amazing the diversity of wildlife and landscape
that we have in this area. NARRATOR: Having special
access to areas like this is just one of the
perks of Pat’s job. But in the past 20
years, a group of conservationists has
quietly acquired an additional 20,000 acres in
the Wildcat Hills for the public to enjoy. The goal is to keep this
wildlife rich corridor…wild. REECE: When you go to the
front range of Colorado and you see how housing
development has moved way up into those mountain
environments, the same concern
is very real here. The conservation
organizations are hopeful that they are would be
able to put a large enough contiguous acreage under
common management so that they can sustain the
wonderful diversity that we have. We have introduced Big
Horn sheep in the Wildcat Hills now. We have our native deer and
elk and every once in awhile, we actually have a moose. This ecosystem is a tremendous
environment for bobcats. And we have our resident
mountain lion population. I see mountain lion signs. I see mountain lion scat. I see mountain lion kills. NARRATOR: For Bob Smith
who manages much of the land for the conservation group,
this place is something special. BOB SMITH: I’m third
generation here. And uh, this five river
basin was formed from people that care about
the landscapes and conservation and uh, I
think it was important for us to give back
to the community. We uh we grew up with
the best of the best and things have changed and,
I think that having land like this that for
everybody to enjoy where they don’t have to pay
fees to -to hunt or to hike,
it’s real special. NARRATOR: For now, there
are few trails but the existing two-track ranch
roads provide quick entry into the wilderness,
by foot, bike or animal. KAREN JOHNSON:
That’s ok… good girl…. KAREN: A lot of people
don’t know these places exist. NARRATOR: In 20 years of
riding these trails, the last 10 with her trusty
mule Peg, Karen Johnson has seen
only a handful of other riders. KAREN: I just love
being out here. It’s very relaxing. You don’t think about the
grocery lists or what you have to do next,
-you’re just out here and the pine trees’ smell is
wonderful, we have wildflowers, in the spring that come out. We’ve seen coyote, turkeys, raccoon. I’ve seen a fox before. I had moose prints outside
my house just in the past month. And it’s kind of the
anticipation I guess for me of what we’re gonna see
around the corner, you know, what’s gonna
be there this time. Is it the wildlife? Is it the flowers? It’s just – it’s a
sanctuary I guess for me. NARRATOR:
Even for Bob and Pat, who’ve spent
years exploring the area, they’re
still discoveries to be had. REECE: That’s one of
the things that’s so fascinating about
the Wildcat Hills. You really don’t know what
you’re gonna see when you get around
the next bend. (Discussion on a fossil) NARRATOR: And For Pat, these
hills are not only his office, but also a place to get away and
see old friends. REECE: I just like to look
around every corner and behind every tree as I go. So many of these plant
species are like friends. And sometimes you don’t get
to see your friends every year. Because they need
to have rain. And it’s not
there every year. So when you see an old
friend you haven’t seen for two or three years,
you sit down and you enjoy it. REECE: It’s not such a
terrible thing not to think about anything. To sit and just enjoy the
wind, the breeze, to just simply enjoy. ♪ MUSIC ♪

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