The tension between wildlife protection under the Endangered Species Act and water management in the Platte River Basin has existed for more than 25 years. The Platte River provides important habitat for migratory and breeding birds, including three endangered or threatened species: the whooping crane, the northern Great Plains population of the piping plover, and the interior least tern. The leading factors attributed to the decline of the cranes are historical overhunting and widespread habitat destruction and, for the plovers and terns, human interference during nesting and the loss of riverine nesting sites in open sandy areas that have been replaced with woodlands, sand and gravel mines, housing, and roadways. Extensive damming has disrupted passage of the endangered pallid sturgeon and resulted in less suitable habitat conditions such as cooler stream flows, less turbid waters, and inconsistent flow regimes. Commercial harvesting, now illegal, also contributed to the decline of the sturgeon.
Endangered and Threatened Species of the Platte River addresses the habitat requirements for these federally protected species. The book further examines the scientific aspects of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service s instream-flow recommendations and habitat suitability guidelines and assesses the science concerning the connections among the physical systems of the river as they relate to species habitats.