Fontenelle Forest is a nature center owned and operated by the Fontenelle Nature Association. Bordering the Missouri River, its 1,300 acres consists of mature riverine deciduous forest, loess hill forests, extensive floodplains, marsh and wetland areas, and grasslands. There are over 26 miles of foot trails. Staff and volunteers oversee indoor animal exhibits, provide guided walks, and promote lectures and films. Open daily except some holidays, admission fee, memberships available.

Ornithological Summary

Situated along the Missouri River migration flyway, Fontenelle Forest's large size and diversity of habitats afford birders one of the state's best places to see eastern migrants. Its bird checklist contains 246 species, among them 35 warblers. "Birder's World" magazine identified it as one of the top ten best warbler birding areas in the country. It is Nebraska's only known breeding site for the Red-shouldered Hawk. Other notable breeding species include Scarlet and Summer Tanager, Louisiana Waterthrush, Prothonotary Warbler, Yellow-throated Vireo, American Redstart, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Carolina Wren, Wood Thrush, and Pileated Woodpecker. The Forest is a station in the MAPS (Monitoring Avian Productivity and Survivorship) bird banding program.

Conservation Issues

Fontenelle Forest is surrounded on three sides by urban housing and on the fourth by the Missouri River. There are light and noise issues from the adjacent residential areas. The large deer herd has substantially reduced the regeneration of the forest. An annual deer hunt was initiated several years ago to manage the deer population.

Thousands of visitors walk the trails annually. There is some impact to the foot traffic, such as erosion and damage to new plant growth.

Other management goals include reducing the numbers of non-native plant species, such as musk thistle.

Ownership

Fontenelle Nature Association began in 1913 as the Fontenelle Forest Association, when a group of area scholars and businessmen decided to start their own non-profit organization with the intent of preserving land along the Missouri River. Today, the FNA owns and operates both Fontenelle Forest and Neale Woods Nature Center.

The first 300-acre tract of land was purchased in 1920. Since then, the total land acreage of Fontenelle Forest has been expanded to approximately 1,401 acres through additional purchases, gifts, and trades. Until the mid-1960's, the Forest was primarily used as a place for hikes and picnics; there were no professional staff employed other than a caretaker. However, in the 1960's Omaha's city forester, Jim Malkowski, began to lead educational hikes in the forest. These proved popular, and the ultimate result was the 1966 opening of the Fontenelle Forest Nature Center.

Land Use

Fontenelle Forest operates year-round as a center for environmental education, habitat restoration, and wildlife research. Miles of hiking trails provide excellent chances for flora and fauna observation.

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