Natural Resource Condition Assessments for Homestead National Historical Park

The Natural Resource Condition Assessment (NRCA) Program provides framework, funding, and publishing support to parks to aid in the synthesis and documentation of natural resource conditions. Condition assessment reports are a tool to describe selected park resources, and record a snapshot of their current condition, identify trends, and identify potential or current threats and stressors. Understanding the condition and trend of natural resources is key for parks and NPS planners to appropriately prioritize and allocate stewardship resources.

The split trunk of a large cottonwood tree dominates the foreground in a forest of smaller, bare trees.
Historic cottonwood tree growing along the tallgrass prairie trail at Homestead National Historical Park.

NPS/M.Tack photo.

Millions were invited to file claims under the Homestead Act of 1862, including families, immigrants, single women, and freed slaves. The land, long inhabited by American Indian cultures, changed forever as over 10 percent of the United States was homesteaded. Homesteaders created settlements and farms, drove industrial advancement, and built our nation chasing the American Dream. Homestead National Historical Park commemorates and interprets the Homestead Act and its influence upon the country. Located in the southeast corner of Nebraska, the park is comprised of more than 200 acres of tallgrass prairie and bur oak woodland.

Traditional NRCA Report: 2019

In an effort to better understand the natural resources and processes present in Homestead National Historical Park, a Natural Resource Condition Assessment was conducted and published in 2019. National Park Service representatives, in partnership with Colorado State University, evaluated the park’s needs and available data. Nineteen resource topics and their associated indicators were assessed:

- Land cover and land use

- Prairie vegetation

- Night sky

- Invasive exotic plants

- Soundscape

- Mesic Bur Oak forest and woodland community

- Scenic views

- Aquatic macroinvertebrates

- Climate change

- Terrestrial invertebrates

- Fire disturbance regime (prairie)

- Bird community

- Air quality

- Fish community

- Stream hydrology and geomorphology

- Herptiles

- Water quality

- Mammals

- Osage orange hedgerow

Overall, the condition of natural resources at Homestead National Historical Park varied. Two resource topics were found to be in good condition (prairie vegetation and bird community) and eleven topics were of moderate concern (night sky, scenery and views, fire disturbance regime, air quality, water quality, invasive exotic plants, mesic bur oak community, aquatic macroinvertebrates, fish community, mammals, and Osage Orange hedgerow). Three resources were found to be of significant concern (soundscape, stream hydrology and geomorphology, and herptiles). Climate change, land cover/land use, and terrestrial invertebrates were not assigned a condition or trend, but they provide important context to natural resource conditions and management and can be stressors. Some of the land cover and land use-related stressors at the park and in the larger region are related to the development of rural land and increases in population/housing over time. Climate change is happening and is affecting resources, but is not considered good or bad per se. The information synthesized in that section of the assessment is useful in examining potential trends in the vulnerability of several sensitive biological resources. Data to assess the condition of terrestrial invertebrates was lacking. Overall, regional and park-specific mitigation and adaptation strategies will be needed to maintain or improve the condition of some resources over time.

For other reports and natural resource datasets visit the NPS Data Store.

Source: Data Store Collection 7765 (results presented are a subset). To search for additional information, visit the Data Store.

Last updated: August 15, 2022


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