The Cranes are Coming

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Updated: Mon, 10 Mar 2014 09:50:57 CST

For a few weeks every spring the Platte River Valley becomes home to hundreds of thousands of sand hill cranes. On Saturday the Crane Trust featured presentations on the birds. Paul Johnsgard says the crane migration is his reason for being.

"In 1962 I brought a bunch of students out here to review the Kearney area and saw cranes for the first time and that made me decide I had to live the rest of my life in Nebraska I can't live without the cranes," said Paul Johnsgard, Ornithologist and Professor at the University of Lincoln Nebraska.

The crane migration is an integral part of Nebraska's economy. People travel from all over the globe to witness the spectacle of the cranes. Every year it brings in an estimated 11 million dollars.

Both native Nebraskans and out of towners are excited for this year's migration.

"We enjoy seeing the birds coming in and the migration patterns and living in Doniphan that was a choice for us so we could be closer to the cranes," said Michael Hetchinson.

"It's great, it's always been on the bucket list to come down  to the Platte river," said Wayne Melquist.

At the crane trust they work year round to ensure that the cranes return to Nebraska.

"We remove vegetation from within the river channel so that those sandbars are available for the cranes to rest at night and we also manage and care for the surrounding grasslands," said Mary Harner, Director of Science at the Crane Trust.

The sand hill cranes are much more than just a tourist attraction. They are a central part of Nebraska's identity.

"For thousands of years people have held spiritual connections to these birds and they're just an incredible connector for us as humans to the natural world," said Mary Harner.