Wednesday, April 17, 2024

The relationship of the natural environment to land use and future development is an important factor to consider while making decisions concerning potential uses of the land. As an understanding has grown about the complexity of relationships between human settlements and the natural environment, conflicts between social and economic forces and the capability of the environment to support development have become more apparent.

Historical development trends nationwide have located urban development along river corridors where the most fertile soils are generally found. The more recent development trends of an affluent society have placed additional demands upon the natural environment. This has resulted in pressure to allow more intensive uses of the land within, or adjacent to, natural and scenic areas. As a preliminary step in addressing these conflicts and to provide guidance for future decision making, this section of the plan provides a brief overview of the County's natural environment.

Geographic Location

Banner County is located on the western edge of Nebraska in what is generally referred to as the Panhandle. It is bordered by Scotts Bluff County to the north, the state Wyoming to the west, Kimball County to the south, Morrill County to the east and Cheyenne County on the southeast corner. The county is rectangular in shape extending approximately 35 miles east to west and 21 miles north to south. The county encompasses approximately 478,208 acres or 747 square miles.

Denver, the nearest large metropolitan area, is located approximately 182 miles southwest of Harrisburg. Lincoln and Omaha are 408 and 464 miles to the east, respectively. Cheyenne is located approximately 88 miles to the southwest.


Banner County is in the High Plains section of the Great Plains physiographic province. The county's elevation varies from 5,340 feet near the state line in the southwestern part of the county to 3,840 feet in the northeast corner of the county by the North Platte River.

There are three major physiographic features in Banner County. The Cheyenne Tableland, a high plain remnant of the Laramie Range, covers the southern third of the county. The Wildcat Ridge, a steep sided remnant of the high plains, is in the very northern section of the county. Lying between the Cheyenne Tableland and the Wildcat Ridge is the Pumpkin Creek valley. This valley is an extension of the Goshen Hole lowland in eastern Wyoming.


Banner County has a semi-arid climate as a result of its location near the center of a large continent and effects caused several features of relief. The Rocky Mountains and the Black Hills significantly affect climatic conditions experienced in the county by blocking and redirecting wind patterns and/or precipitation.

Banner County experiences extreme variances in temperature during the year. In winter, periods 3 of cold temperatures alternate with milder intervals that often occur as a result of tepid downslope winds. The average temperature in winter is 27 degrees (Fahrenheit) with the average daily low being 13 degrees. The lowest temperature in the county on record occurred in Harrisburg on December 22, 1989, when the temperature dipped to 44 degrees below zero.

The summer, conversely, is warm with periods of very hot weather. The relatively low humidity, however, makes the periods of hot weather more comfortable than in the eastern sections of the State. The average temperature in the summer is 68 degrees with the average daily high being 83 degrees. The highest recorded temperature in the county occurred on July 16, 2006, in Harrisburg when the mercury rose to 105 degrees.

Being sheltered by the Rockies, the average annual precipitation is 16.27 inches (High Plains Regional Climate Center, Banner County 1991-2020). The area is susceptible to severe droughts. Approximately two out of every ten years brings less than 5 inches of precipitation between April and September. Periods of heavy rainfall also occur as thunderstorms are experienced about 44 days each year. Occasionally these thunderstorms can be severe and be accompanied by tornadoes. Hailstorms tend to occur during the warmer periods of the year and can damage or even destroy crops in the area.

Snowfall in the area is frequent as an average of 40 days each year have at least one inch of Snow cover on the ground. The number of such days varies considerably from year to year and the snow cover usually disappears during the milder winter periods. Blizzards with high winds and drifting snow can hit the area at times. The overall average seasonal snowfall in the area accumulates to 47 inches.

Water Resources

Surface water resources in Banner County are limited, with Pumpkin Creek and Lawrence Fork being the major streams. Groundwater comes primarily from the Brule and Chadron Formations. Irrigation development has impacted the water table in Pumpkin Creek Valley.

Wellhead Protection

A wellhead protection area has been established that will maintain a safe source of drinking water for the residents of Harrisburg. Development that could possibly contaminate the well field is prohibited from locating near this area.

Flood Plains

During the 2019 bomb cyclone, flooding washed out many county roads impacting transportation, causing long detours, and impassible roads. The event caused economic loss in the county due to crop loss, lost time due to transportation issues, and increased county road department costs to repair and replace roads.

Banner County experiences a lot of flooding in the southern half of the county. Most often, this is flash flooding, not linked to riverine flooding. Typically, the worst flooding events occur in the spring, when snowmelt is combined with frozen ground, which does not allow infiltration. The biggest issue associated with flooding is low water crossings, which flood quickly during heavy rains. Much of the flood waters drain from Wyoming, which compounds the flooding issues in Banner County. The most common area of concern for the planning team is located on CR-17, and CR-6. When these particular areas flood, the county works to place barricades to prevent residents from attempting to cross the flood waters. Detours from CR-17 and CR-6 may result in a 25-mile detour. To help mitigate the risk of flooding the county is upgrading roads, installing more culverts, and upsizing existing culverts.

Prime Farmland

Preserving prime farmland for the exclusive purpose of agricultural use is important because these soils produce the highest yields with minimal inputs of energy and economic resources and farming them results in the least damage to the environment.

About 193,000 acres, or about 40 percent, of the county has the potential to be prime farmland with adequate moisture. Most of the prime farmland in the county is used for crops, primarily wheat.


Tree windbreaks continue to be a vital source of wind protection for both the residents and livestock along with helping to minimize erosion on the fine soils of Banner County. Unfortunately, many of the old Elm, Cottonwood, and Pine windbreaks are in a state of decline due to advanced age and disease. Although these old snags and associated grass strips still serve a lesser function, being proactive planting new and renovating these old Windbreaks will be vital in order to sustain the wind protection residents have come to enjoy.

Promoting diversity and a proactive approach will help ensure adequate trees at alt stages of life exist so no lags are present between dead and dying trees and the growth of new ones. Promoting diversity will also help ensure that a disease to one species doesn’t entirely wipe out all windbreaks because other species are present.

Woodlands and Vegetation

The steep uplands of the county contain the largest concentrations of woodlands. The acreage of woodland in these areas, however, is small and scattered. Thus, commercial production of these woodlands is of limited value. Ponderosa Pine is the predominant tree in this area. Rocky Mountain Juniper is also common. The bottom lands such as Pumpkin Creek and Hackberry Draw have sparse populations of trees. Cottonwood and Peachleaf Willow are the predominant species on the bottomlands.

Banner County is in short-grass country. The only native trees in the county are primarily Ponderosa Pine in the uplands and Cottonwoods in the bottomlands.


Banner County has the necessary food, water, and shelter suitable to a large variety of wildlife. Some of the more common types of wildlife in the county include antelope, deer, moose, elk, big horn sheep, coyotes, badgers, skunks, rabbit, prairie dogs, raccoons, hawks, eagles, owls, pheasants, grouse, ducks, doves, pigeons, turkeys, and geese. Bob cats, mountain lions, and moose can also be seen in the county. Trout and largemouth bass are also common, especially in private owned ponds.