While elected officials were determining the fate of the North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA
), whooping cranes were spotted enjoying two Ducks Unlimited properties in Nebraska
. The properties, in the Rainwater Basin and along the Platte River, have wetlands restored by DU with dollars granted from a number of funders, including the North American Wetlands Conservation Act and the Nebraska Environmental Trust (NET).
Like the whooping crane, NET and NAWCA are threatened. Legislation in Congress and the Nebraska State Legislature has attempted to reduce severely this vital conservation
funding. A recent compromise bill in Congress restored most of the funding for NAWCA for this fiscal year, and a compromise in the Nebraska legislature might be good for short- and long-term habitat
conservation in Nebraska.
However, the threats continue. DU will be working to restore full funding for NAWCA in the next fiscal year to move forward with the important habitat work in Nebraska waterfowl and other birds depend on, including the endangered whooping crane.
A population that ranged from 15,000 to 25,000 at one time dwindled to a mere 15 by 1941. In July 2010, the population was estimated to be 535 total whooping cranes. North America's tallest bird, whooping cranes have been reportedly using DU, NAWCA and NET projects throughout their spring and fall migration. The story behind their recovery has been fascinating and biologists continue monitoring their rebound.
DU member and professional photographer, Abby Jensen, found the rare birds displaying courting behavior along the Platte River. "It was an experience of a lifetime to see so many of these beautiful cranes in one group," Jensen said. "I watched them play and eat for several hours on this DU wetland in Nebraska. While still endangered, the conservation efforts of so many people across the world are bringing the whooping crane back from the threat of extinction."
Having the opportunity to once again witness the whooping crane migration, DU supporters and bird enthusiasts must continue to remind elected officials that the decisions they make can impact wildlife significantly.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Rainwater Basin Joint Venture, US Natural Resources Conservation Service, Tri-Basin Natural Resources District and Nebraska Public Power District provided additional funding for these projects.