GIBBON, Nebraska — Audubon Nebraska has bought nearly 600 acres that will be protected as a rest stop for migrating sandhill and whooping cranes, and other waterfowl.
The land sits along the Platte River at the Rowe Bird Sanctuary near Gibbon in south-central Nebraska. In an announcement Wednesday, Audubon Nebraska said the property was purchased for $2.4 million from a local family. The money came from several sources, including the Nebraska Environmental Trust Fund, the North America Wetland Conservation Act Funds from Ducks Unlimited, and private foundations and donors.
Bill Taddicken, director of the Iaian Nicolson Audubon Center at the sanctuary, said the location of the property near the middle of a critical habitat complex makes it a key component of Platte River conservation needs.
"Now, 4½ miles of contiguous habitat on both sides of the river will be protected," Taddicken said.
The sanctuary was established in 1974 to protect habitat for birds. Thousands of visitors stop in the area each spring to learn more about the bird migration. Hundreds of thousands of sandhill cranes feed in farm fields between Grand Island and Kearney during the day and resting in shallow waters of the Platte each night for several weeks. The cranes then continue their journeys to arctic breeding grounds from winter homes in Texas, Oklahoma or Mexico.
With the land purchase, the sanctuary has grown to a little over 2,800 acres — more than four square miles. Audubon plans to restore wetlands on the new property and increase grassland diversity through prescribed grazing, burning and other management practices. Invasive tree and plant species will be removed.
A farmhouse on the property will be used to house volunteers, said Marian Langan, executive director of Audubon Nebraska.
Rowe Bird Sanctuary: http://rowe.audubon.org /