For those who have experienced it, the Great Plains’ rolling grasslands, charismatic wildlife, and boundless scenery fill the heart with wonder. The Plains are filled with fascinating biodiversity and wonderful opportunities for exploration while also harboring critically endangered habitats. Its people have created diverse cultures and communities. How can we preserve this legacy for future generations?

We argue that responsible nature-based tourism offers one strategy to simultaneously save the region’s natural marvels, benefit landowners, and sustain thriving rural communities. This is conservation that works with businesses, landowners, and communities toward common goals; it creates allies of groups—environmentalists, business owners, and land owners—sometimes cast as adversaries. It’s already happening in the Great Plains here and there, as events like the Sandhill crane migration gain popularity and efforts like the American Prairie Reserve gain footing. The Center’s ongoing ecotourism project seeks to explore, promote, and strengthen these operations.

The conference will feature sessions for business leaders, ranchers, and community partners as well as wider discussions about how to preserve the stunning bounty of Great Plains ecology. It will examine local and global models of conservation and tourism, including speakers from southern Africa where tourism has had stunning success in supporting conservation. The Nebraska Tourism Commission’s annual Agri/Ecotourism Workshop and the Heartland Scenic Byways Annual Conference will join their conferences with this event.

Along with a slate of impactful speakers, the conference will include hands-on opportunities to see and learn about regional ecotourism attractions during a series of pre-conference, optional field trips and workshops. Field trip seats are limited, so register early!

Early-bird registration: $100 (ends March 1)


  • Starting Wednesday, April 18th, 2018, repeats every day until Friday, April 20, 2018 — all day


Younes Conference Center

416 W Talmadge Rd
Kearney, NE 68845


Katie Nieland