Habitat conversion and development has fragmented the American prairie, limiting wildlife habitat, obstructing migration corridors, and distancing humans from the natural world. Restoration efforts seek to recreate these habitats wherever possible, and Grasslands Unlimited is dedicated to bringing prairies back to the urban environment. Our projects range from pocket prairies of just a few square feet up to larger scale restorations. 

Cottonwood Creek Preserve

Cottonwood Creek Preserve is a testament to the power of urban conservation, and a showcase for the opportunities that exist to provide and improve wildlife habitat right in your neighborhood! The preserve was originally created as an outlot in the Lake Cunningham Ridge subdivision in northern Omaha, and was to be managed by the homeowner’s association for the benefit of the community. The association dissolved in the 2010s and the property was foreclosed, ultimately ending up at the Omaha Municipal Land Bank. Easements and stormwater management issues prevented the property from being developed and it sat idle and unused for more than five years until Grasslands Unlimited purchased it in early 2024. 

Restoration began immediately, with priority being given to removing invasive trees from the forested area, and converting a large grass field back to native prairie. Our volunteers, together with the browse team from the Henry Doorly Zoo, have removed hundreds of invasive white mulberries, Callery pears, and Siberian elms from the property, creating space for new native species to thrive. More than an acre of turf grass was killed and seeded with a mix of native cool- and warm-season grasses and wildflowers. 

The preserve is a haven for birds, butterflies, bees, and even larger mammals, yet there is nothing exceptional about its location or design. Hundreds of such outlots exist across Omaha and every other metropolitan area in the Great Plains. By leveraging impactful conservation strategies, even small areas in highly urbanized areas can provide valuable habitat for prairie wildlife.

Cottonwood Creek Preserve is not currently open to the public. If you are interested in touring the site please contact us.

Wildlife at Cottonwood Creek Preserve

Cottonwood Creek Preserve may not look like a traditional conservation project, but our 6.5 acres provide habitat for many species of wildlife. Our trail cameras have captured raccoons, opossums, groundhogs, coyotes, and more! Many more species of birds, insects, amphibians, and reptiles survive in our tiny preserve, proving that projects do not need to be large to make a big difference. 

Check out the trail camera footage below!

Urban Pocket Prairies

Cities are filled with unused spaces that can be turned into prairies. Roadsides, intersections, medians, parking lots, and park margins are often maintained by local governments as turf grass that requires constant maintenance and water, costs money, and serves no ecological purpose. Grasslands Unlimited works to convert these marginal areas into “pocket prairies”, or small fragments of habitat that beautify urban areas and provide habitat for insects and birds. 

Converting these spaces from turf grass requires careful planning, deliberate plant selection, and maintenance while native plants establish. GU partners closely with the City of Omaha to build pocket prairies that showcase the beauty of native plants and demonstrate the ways that they can be deployed to save money. Our pocket prairie projects have GU partnership signs, look for them around town! 

If you are interested in volunteering with our pocket prairie campaign or are interested in learning more about creating your own project, please contact us!