A spectacular success for the Platte River
Wednesday, Nov 14, 2007 - 12:13:28 am CST
Wildlife lovers in Nebraska have good reason to celebrate these days.
Efforts to restore habitat on the Platte River have provided an immediate and spectacular payoff.
Last year a 200-acre, mile-long stretch of the Platte River next to the Audubon Society’s Rowe Sanctuary near Gibbon was restored to its pre-dam condition.
Trees and other invasive plants were removed, river channels were reshaped and several bare nesting islands were created.
The work had been completed for only several weeks when three migrating whooping cranes roosted at the site, according to the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies.
This summer the stretch scored another important success when 10 pairs of least terns and two pairs of piping plovers nested on the islands. Least terns are an endangered species. Piping plovers are listed as threatened.
The two species had been squeezed out of their natural nesting grounds when low water flow allowed trees and vegetation to take root on the sand islands where they previously nested.
Wildlife officials said the nesting was the first in the central Platte in the past decade.
Another cause for elation this fall was the sighting of five whooping cranes on the Niobrara River. The group is one of the 250 whoopers that migrate from their breeding grounds in Canada to wintering grounds on the Texas Gulf Coast.
Whooping cranes are part of one of the world’s most spectacular wildlife events, the seasonal migration of hundreds of thousands of sandhill cranes and other water fowl that draws thousands of tourists to Nebraska in the spring and fall.
One of the key stops on this journey is the central Platte River. A map of the central flyway migratory route looks like an hour glass, with the Platte River at the narrow part of the hour glass.
The restoration project used by the whoopers, least terns and piping plovers was part of the Nebraska Natural Legacy Project, which draws together a diverse group including farmers, hunters, birdwatchers in support of preserving the Platte River as a biologically unique landscape.
The project is funded by both private and public money, and covers last owned by nonprofit wildlife groups and private landowners.
“There’s not many examples nationally where you can take this federal money, match it with state and private money and boom, you’ve got a measurable result,” said Mark Humpert of the Game and Parks Commission.
Nebraskans can take pride at the recent victories in preserving the crucial Platte River stopping point for migrating birds. The success will be appreciated internationally.
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
The Local Paper
Presented in it's entirety from the Opinion Page of the Lincoln Journal Star