After much communication with the National Audubon Society, the Crane Trust has been certified as a globally important bird area (IBA) thanks to the Whooping Cranes and the huge abundance of Sandhill Cranes that visit us each year. Our ownership and easements protect 31 miles of Platte River channel that will never be developed further. This September the United States IBA Committee confirmed that the visit of 208,300 Sandhill Cranes and 8 Whooping Cranes in one day in March meant that the Crane Trust is a vital resource for our birds.
Important bird areas are classified by having threatened or range-restricted species, or high concentrations of species beyond a threshold determined by their committee to be fundamental to the endurance of that species. For example, with the Sandhill Crane population estimated at just over 500,000 birds, in one day in March the aerial survey recorded about 38% of the central flyway’s and 31% of the world’s Sandhills on our property. This makes the Crane Trust one of the highest concentrations of cranes anywhere in the world and the largest roost on the Platte River. Audubon’s Rowe Sanctuary is classified similarly for their huge crane roosts and regular visits by Whooping Cranes. We expect the full description to go live on the website IBA map in the coming months, as currently only the site report documents the change.
Classifying habitat is not just a national effort by the National Audubon Society. It is actually an international effort crafted by BirdLife International to help determine areas that are of the greatest need for protection by agencies like us and Audubon Society. In fact, to date the BirdLife national partners, like Audubon, have documented more than 12,000 sites in over 200 countries and even the oceans. They expect the important bird areas to cover approximately 7% of the world’s land surface when the projects have finished their inventories. The purpose of these classifications is to provide a ranking system to identify priority areas to conserve and direct funding. Think maximum impact on our avian wildlife for the smallest amount of money. Typically important bird areas must be large enough to protect a population during part of its life cycle, but small enough to be conserved entirely.
Largely because of the lack of submitted data, there are only four globally important bird areas in Nebraska. However, grassland birds are the most drastically declining group in the United States, so it is likely that many more areas can be listed in the future. On a positive note the farm bill and its conservation aspects appear to have stabilized the declines of many grassland birds. Similarly, the conservation efforts of many organizations and individuals is also increasing the population of the Whooping Crane. Conservation works and the Crane Trust strive to increase our protection of migratory birds in need. However, there is a key piece of our puzzle missing at the moment: the largest crane roost in the world has five miles of river channel that is currently unprotected on the south side and therefore vulnerable to be developed from a harmless corn field to a disruptive housing development or sandpit. This global IBA classification says to the world that this land is worth protecting and can help the Crane Trust to gain partners in its preservation.
To support our protection efforts on the south side of the river, Donate Now.