Nebraska plans to showcase one of its most spectacular natural occurrences later this month as it hosts governors from Kansas and Colorado.
Gov. Dave Heineman has announced he will host Gov. Sam Brownback of Kansas and Gov. John Hickenlooper of Colorado on Friday, March 23rd to joint economic development efforts, including the promotion of eco-tourism.
The governors won’t just talk about eco-tourism, they will observe it. They are scheduled to come to Nebraska during the spectacular migration of the sandhill cranes, which brings half a million cranes to central Nebraska en route to summer breeding grounds in Canada, Alaska and Siberia.
Nebraska Games and Parks Commission Director Rex Amack says the annual migration puts on a show that attracts approximately 70,000 visitors to Nebraska each year.
“They’re very tourist friendly,” Amack says. “They don’t run away. They just mind their own business. They’re very easy to watch. They’ve beautiful to watch. They’re very mechanically-oriented bird. They’re some of the most graceful fliers that you’ll ever see.”
Amack says that along with the cranes, between seven and 11 million waterfowl also come to the Platte River Valley, including ducks, geese and shorebirds. Around 90% of the world’s sandhill cranes fly to south-central Nebraska between mid-February and mid-April on their way to summer breeding grounds in Canada, Alaska and Siberia.
State Economic Development officials say those 70,000 visitors generate around $8 million in tourism revenue each year. Officials say the leisure and hospitality industry employs 10% of the private workforce in the state.
AUDIO: Gov. Heineman holds conference call on eco-tourism [6:30]