Rowe Sanctuary works in cooperation with several conservation organizations to provide cranes optimum roosting habitat on the river and to provide nesting habitat for Interior Least Terns and Piping Plovers. As the growing season comes to an end each year, heavy machinery is utilized to recreate what nature can no longer do.
Managing the Platte River
According to some historical accounts, the Platte River was "a mile wide and a inch deep". Wetlands and wet meadows bordered the Platte to capture and hold water that escaped past its banks, and tallgrass prairie bordered the wetlands and wet meadows. Each spring, snow melt from the Rockies would provide scouring flows that removed new vegetation that grew on sandbars during the previous growing season.
Today, reduced flows in the river make it necessary for mechanical clearing to maintain wide channels and open sandbars that cranes and other species prefer. Large equipment is used to remove woody vegetation on established islands. Once the island has been cleared, then it is disked in order to inhibit the woody growth even further. This process must be repeated over time; otherwise the trees will come back.
Dealing with Invasives
With each passing year, management work within the river channel has become more difficult due to invasive plants. Non-native species such as purple loosestrife and phragmites have spread at an alarming rate in the Platte River valley, with salt cedar becoming a major concern as well. All three of the plants mentioned remove an incredible amount of water from the river, while at the same time choking out native vegetation. Rowe Sanctuary is working with local, state and federal agencies to combat this ever growing threat to the Platte River Basin.
The Importance of Prairie & Wet Meadows
Prairie and wet meadows in the Platte River Valley have decreased over time, these areas play an important role during the sandhill crane's stay here in March and early April. The cranes utilize these areas for feeding, loafing, and as secondary roost sites.
Native prairie is defined as land that has never been cultivated and consists of grasses and flowering plants (forbs) that were originally found in that region. Rowe Sanctuary has over 770 acres of native prairie and an additional 300 acres of restored grasslands.
The prairie and wet meadow areas are managed by haying, grazing, and prescribed burns. This is done on a rotational basis, with each practice benefiting the prairie.