Sunday, October 18, 2009

Cool Highway Sign


Drivers approaching the Celery Fields from the west on Palmer Road first see this cool highway sign when they arrive at the edge of the area. Apparently someone somewhere is proud of the Greater Sandhill Cranes that live in and near this wetland area.

When I first saw the sign I remembered back to March 1979 during my first sojourn along the Platte River in Nebraska. There we were studying the distribution of Sandhill Cranes along with a host of other aspects of the species' ecology. One morning while parked on the edge of the road looking at cranes a local resident pulled up behind my car, got out and walked to me. I was in a Fish and Wildlife Service vehicle with a Service emblem on the side of each door (we used to call them "targets" in those days).

Reaching my car the man asked me what I was doing. When I explained it to him he admonished me to start carrying a sidearm in my car for protection because of who I worked for because "you're trying to save those god damned cranes." Well, yes, we were.

Now some 30 years later that attitude no longer prevails along the Platte River where Sandhill Crane watching in March is the number one tourist attraction in Central Nebraska. Crane watching is now more popular than watching horse races at Fonner Park. The fact that crane watchers bring 10s of millions of dollars into the local economy each spring has a bit to do with the change in attitude.

I've not been a resident of Florida long enough to know the politics of cranes here. Apparently any animosity that may have existed in the past is gone because local government is putting up signs alerting people to the presence of this most noble of birds.

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