Nebraska National Forest, Bessey District

Area 90,445 acres. Grasslands around and in this planted coniferous “forest” surrounded by sand dunes support greater prairie-chickens, sharp-tailed grouse, upland sandpipers, horned larks, and western meadowlarks. The conifers provide habitat for great horned owls, black-capped chickadees, and red crossbills. Brushy and riparian thicket areas attract several woodpeckers, brown thrashers, towhees, chipping sparrows and Baltimore orioles. At least six warbler species nest here, including yellow, black-and-white, American redstart, ovenbird, common yellowthroat, and yellow-breasted chat. Three vireos (Bell’s, warbling and red-eyed) nest here.

There is a bird checklist available at the headquarters. Personnel can provide information on the locations of the two grouse blinds,where mostly sharp-tailed grouse and a few greater prairie-chickens display primarily late March to late April.

Fires in the 1960s and 2005 burned much of the forest, but at least 10,000 acres still survive. This forest is not self-regenerating. There is a six-mile hiking trail that begins at the parking lot off State Highway 2.