North American Crane Working Group


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Jenniges, J.J., and M.M. Peyton. Management of lands along the Platte River from Elm Creek to Lexington, Nebraska, as crane habitat. In: Folk, MJ and SA Nesbitt, eds. 2008. Proceedings of the Tenth North American Crane Workshop, Feb. 7-10, 2006, Zacatecas City, Zacatecas, Mexico: North American Crane Working Group. pp. 76-85.


Reproduced by permission of the North American Crane Working Group.


To meet Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) license requirements for the operation of 5 hydroelectric power plants on the North Platte and Platte Rivers in Nebraska, the Nebraska Public Power District (NPPD) and The Central Nebraska Public Power and Irrigation District (Central) together have become the second largest owners and managers of lands for the conservation of endangered species and migratory waterbirds along the central reach of the Platte River. We describe here the management activities on the properties, success of the management in achieving objectives, and the response of sandhill (Grus canadensis) and whooping cranes (G. americana) to that management. The primary developments and enhancements for the Cottonwood Ranch Property are the removal of 200 ha of mature riparian cottonwood (Populus deltoides) and ash (Fraxinus pennsylvanica) forest on accretion lands, the conversion of 136 ha of farmland to grassland interspersed with linear wetlands, the construction of a 10-ha palustrine wetland within the restored grassland, and 8 ha of vegetation free sand island. Five miles upstream of the Cottonwood Ranch Property is Central’s 1,800-ha Jeffrey Island Habitat Area. Similar to the Cottonwood Ranch Property, the primary development for the Jeffrey Island Habitat Area is the removal of >146 ha of riparian forest, the construction of >7 km of linear sloughs and wetlands, and the creation of >65 ha of barren sand adjacent to the river channel. Central also has a long-term conservation management easement on 200 ha located along the North Platte River in Lincoln County, which is owned and operated by The Nature Conservancy. Monitoring of cranes on these properties indicates an increase in use of the Cottonwood Ranch Property for night roosting by sandhill cranes and a decrease in the number of sandhill cranes using the Jeffrey Island Habitat Area as a night roost. Daytime use of all properties by sandhill cranes has been almost non-existent. There is 1 confirmed sighting of 2 whooping cranes for 2 days on the Cottonwood Ranch Property in the spring of 2006 and 1 probable sighting of a whooping crane on the Jeffrey Island Habitat Area in the spring of 2004.