• Short Summary

    The National Audubon Society will dedicate a new wildlife sanctuary in the Big Bend area of the Platte river in central Nebraska on Saturday, March 30.

  • Description

    GV Sandhill cranes flying across river at sunset
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    GV Sanchill cranes in river
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    GV More cranes in flight
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    (For further information call Deb Appeal at the National Audubon Society in New York at the phone number above or Ron Klataske, the Society's Regional Representative for the West Central States at (913) 765-2237 until 3/23; (308) 237/3141, the Kearney Holiday Inn. 3/24-3/30.)

    Script is copyright Reuters Limited. All rights reserved

    Background: The National Audubon Society will dedicate a new wildlife sanctuary in the Big Bend area of the Platte river in central Nebraska on Saturday, March 30. It is called the Lillian Annette Rowe Bird Sanctuary and lies along the Platte some six miles southwest of Gibbon.

    The dedication date was chosen to coincide with the height of the spectacular flights of hundreds of thousands of migrating sandhill cranes, great long-legged, long-necked birds with wingspreads of over six feet. The Big Bend region of the Platte is a meandering waterway of shallow sandbars, riverside woodlands and rich wetlands which offer an ideal resting and feeding place for these and other migrating birds; the cranes have been feeding and courting there for centuries.

    The new Audubon sanctuary protects a small stretch of the region, measuring about two and one quarter miles on ne ban and one and one quarter miles on the other. The U.S. Bureau of Sport Fisheries and Wildlife has just announced that it plans to propose a larger stretch of the river further downstream as a National Wildlife Refuge to protect the crases and waterfowl, something National Audubon has long been urging.

    The important wildlife values of the area are threatened by a Federal Irrigation scheme, the $106-million (based on 1967 figures) Nebraska Mid-State Project of the Bureau of Reclamation, which could divert most of the water from the area most of the time and drastically reduce the value of this unique habitat on which 75% of the North American sandhill crane population and hundreds of thousands of waterfowl depend. The Society and its Nebraska chapters are actively opposing Mid-State.

    Dr. Charles Loveless, Regional Director of the Bureau of Sport Fisheries and wildlife, will be the keynote speaker at the Audubon dedication luncheon, which will take place at the Kearney Holiday Inn at 1:00 PM. The BSF&W would be the federal agency which would operate the proposed National Wildlife Refund. Mr. Virgil J. Haggart, Jr., Omaha attorney and member of the Board of the National Audubon Society, will be dedication chairman and will conduct both the luncheon and the outdoor ceremonies, which will take place at the Sanctuary at 11:00 ???.

    Also present will be Mcbrasko State officials including Willard Barbee, Director of Nobraskn's Game and Party Commission, as well as Audubon Executive Vice President Charles H. Callison and Ronald K???taske. Audubon regional Representative for the West Central States. Some 200 Audubon members are expected to come from all over the state and from neighboring states as well.

    The public is invited to attend the outdoor ceremonies at the Lillian Annette Power Bird Sanctuary and the luncheon. Luncheon tickets are $4.00. payable at the door at the Kearney Holiday Inn: no reservations needed, either for the luncheon or for the ceremonies at the Sanctuary. The Sanctuary is two miles south and ne mile wet of the Gibbon ??? on ??? 80. ??? will be posted.

    Guided tours of the Sanctuary Saturday evening will give visitors an opportunity to view the magnificent flights of cranes returning to their river roosting areas. The big birds funnel into the area from wintering grounds in Texas. New Mexico and Mexico and, as they continue north, they fan out to nesting grounds in the muskeg and tundra of Canada. Alaska, and northeastern Siberia. Over 200,000 have been counted along the Platte in March, roosting in shallow water on slightly submerged sandbars surrounded by deeper water which protects them from most predators.

    The shallows and wet meadows of the Platte also furnish key staging habitual for such species in migration as whitefronted and Canada geese, mallards, pintails, teal, widgeon, shovelers, and other wild duck species. The central Platte is the most consistently used migratory stop-over point for the endangered whooping crane: and several dozen bald eagles winter along the river, which offers habitat for deer and smaller game as well as songbirds and other wildlife along with migrator waterfowl.

    With the exception of the dedication ceremonies, the Audubon Sanctuary will be generally closed to the public, according to Regional Representative Klataske. The primary purpose of the Sanctuary, which was acquired with the assistance of a be-quest from the late Lillian Annette Rowe of New Jersey, is to protect wildlife and the river. It is hoped that arrangements can be mae so that in the future, visitors will be able to come to the sanctuary and view the magnificent concentrations of birds from special blinds without causing disturbance.

    The 310.000 member ???ional Audubon Society protects, in all, some 44 wildlife sanctuaries from Maine to california, ranging from small off-shore islands to a 2???,000-acre coastal marshlands. It also publishes educational materials, operates model nature education centers, conducts an extensive research program, and carries on other activities to promote public understanding of the natural environment. Its members, many of them working through one of the Society's 318 local chapters, are at work in a wide variety of citizens action undertakings to protect wildlife and the environment.

    There are five Audubon chapters in Hebraska: the Audubon Society of Omaha, Big Bend Audubon in ???. In grand ??? Audubon in Grand Island. Prairie Audubon in Hastings, and Wachiska Audubon in Lincoln.

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