Nine-Mile Prairie is a 230-acre (97-hectare) relict tallgrass prairie owned by the University of Nebraska Foundation. It is located in on the northwest edge of Lincoln, in Lancaster County. The prairie was so named because it is five miles west and four miles north of the University of Nebraska campus in downtown Lincoln.
Three hundred and ninety-two vascular plant species and over 80 species of birds have been observed on the prairie. Notable species include the federally-threatened prairie white fringed orchid (Platanthera praeclara) and the rare regal fritillary butterfly (Speyeria idalia). The prairie is also used as a seed source of local genotypes of grasses and wildflowers for use in prairie restoration efforts in the region.
The Nine-Mile Prairie Management Committee, comprised of University of Nebraska–Lincoln faculty from several different departments plus resource people from several agencies and organizations, is charged with the stewardship of this biological treasure. Management consists of springtime burning on a 3-year fire-return interval, along with periodic haying and weed/brush control using herbicides. The prairie has not been grazed since 1968.
Owned by the University of Nebraska Foundation (purchased in 1983) and leased to the University of Nebraska (see History of Land Ownership). The initial purchase of Nine-Mile Prairie was made possible with a generous donation by Mrs. Marguerite Hall. In October 2009, university researchers and staff together with Nine-Mile Prairie friends celebrated the 25th anniversary of Nine-Mile Prairie under University of Nebraska management. Also celebrated was the 100th anniversary of prairie ecologist John Weaver's undergraduate degree at the University of Nebraska.
History of Land Ownership
1871 -1906 west half owned by Ira Davenport family
1906 -1914 west half various owners
1914 -1953 west half of 9MP owned by Tilman Flader family
1880 - 1884 east half owned by Burlington Missouri River RR company
1884 -1934 east half various owners
1934 –1953 east half owned by E. Frank Schramm family
1953 -1978 owned by US government
1978 -1983 owned by Airport Authority
1979 -1982 leased by E. Rousek on behalf of the Wachiska chapter of the Audubon Society
1983 – present owned by University of Nebraska Foundation
Research & Education
Nine-Mile Prairie provides many values to the University of Nebraska - Lincoln community. As one of the largest intact tracts of tallgrass prairie left in the Midwest, it serves as a nationally important outdoor laboratory for the study of biological processes in grasslands. Nine-Mile is the longest-studied natural area in Nebraska, serving as the site of pioneering research in plant ecology by Professor John E. Weaver, the father of grassland ecology, beginning in the 1920s, and seeing decades of continued use by researchers at University of Nebraska - Lincoln and UNO.
In addition to its exceptional research value, Nine-Mile Prairie also is a major educational resource for the University as well as the citizens of Nebraska. Students from a diversity of University of Nebraska - Lincoln classes visit the prairie each year for experiences ranging from plant identification to writing poetry. The Prairie is also the setting for tours and special events for the general public aimed at fostering understanding and appreciation of Nebraska’s prairie heritage.