Platte River Basin Ecosystem Returns After Lengthy Hiatus

After a 15-year hiatus, the Platte River Basin Ecosystem Symposium returned in the summer of 2018. Organized by the Crane Trust and Nebraska Water Center, the symposium was revived in time to mark an important milestone.

“In celebrating 40 years of operating on the Platte River, the Crane Trust wanted to reconvene the symposium,” said the Trust’s lead biologist Andy Caven.

So, in early June, the 13th Platte River Basin Ecosystem Symposium kicked off to a roomful of researchers and stakeholders at the beautiful Crane Trust Nature and Visitor Center near Wood River. According to Caven, the event’s goals were to “provide a snapshot of ongoing research in the central Platte River valley, a broad assessment of the ecosystem’s current conditions and to further clarify future conservation and research priorities.”

The Crane Trust and NWC have long been partners in furthering research and engagement around the Central Platte flyway. Much of this research focused on improving outcomes for wildlife of the region including the endangered whooping crane, piping plover, and interior least tern. This involved researching impacts of changes in habitat and water flows. Many of these efforts flow through the Platte River Recovery Implementation Program – an interstate effort to increase stream flows as well as enhance, restore and protect habitat via adaptive management. At the symposium, many successes and adaptations where shared, with notable progress on habitat improvements and modest streamflow increases.

George Archibald, founder of the International Crane Foundation, provided a keynote highlighting the issues facing Mongolia and how they are very similar to those found in the Great Plains. The day was capped by “My Path to the River,” a moving personal narrative from Mike Farrell, co-founder of the Platte Basin Timelapse Project.  

The focus of the second day was strategizing next steps for key issues facing the Basin. Invasive species, particularly Phragmites and Red Cedar, were identified as one of the key challenges. Researching more efficient methods of control is critical to reduce the extensive investments of money and labor. Another priority issue was restoring larger and better-connected areas of native habitat to benefit key species. The group would like to bring these issues together in a future Basin-wide strategic plan.

The proceedings of the 13thPlatte River Basin Ecosystem Symposium are now available. Past proceedings are also available.