PLATTE CENTER, Neb., May, 3, 2016 - Warren Schwanebeck's accomplishments as a wetland manager were on display this spring when three whooping cranes spent 12 days on the Platte County wildlife management area (WMA) he manages. Schwanebeck has managed the 940-acre Wilkinson WMA for Nebraska Game and Parks Commission (NGPC) since the mid 1990's. He became Ducks Unlimited's first recipient of its NGPC Wetland Manager of the Year Award at DU's Nebraska convention this past weekend in Kearney.
"Warren's common sense enthusiasm and tenacity for habitat management has made him an outstanding manager for critical Nebraska habitat," said John Denton, DU manager of conservation programs for Nebraska and Kansas. "He took on a project that was markedly different from land he'd successfully managed on other WMAs. Warren shepherded a large wetland restoration project on the WMA that was the result of a partnership involving many different agencies."
Partners on the project included The Todd Valley Wetland Foundation, Nebraska Environmental Trust, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, Ducks Unlimited, Pheasants Forever, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, and local citizens and landowners.
The WMAs comprehensive wetland management plan included creating dikes, installing new or improving irrigation wells for pumping, and water control structures for managing water levels. The wetland has become an attraction to many species of ducks, geese, migrating shorebirds, rare species such as least bittern, and threatened and endangered species like Bald Eagle, Peregrine Falcon and, most recently, the whooping cranes.
During the crane's time at the WMA, about 300 people visited to view the birds, many seeing whooping cranes for the first time. Commission staff furthered its education goals by providing information and education to many of the visitors.
Warren learned about moist-soil management from expert advisers, such as NGPC staff members Ted LaGrange and Randy Stutheit.
"He researched literature and publications, as well as attended workshops and meetings to learn even more about wetland management," Denton said. "But much of what he's learned has been through adaptive management with different wetland manipulation techniques."
In the last 20 years of management of the area, Warren has rotated pumping efforts in 10 individual wetland cells in 640 acres of wetlands. He established shallow water habitat for waterfowl for both the fall and spring migrations through techniques that included spraying, disking, haying, mowing and grazing.
Becky Jones Mahlum