The journey of the sandhill cranes through the central part of the United States is known as America's last great migration.
And over the weekend the Audubon Center at Rowe Sanctuary recognized 40 years of efforts in trying to protect that.
When Rowe Sanctuary got its start in 1974, it was with one land purchase and a goal to improve habitat for the cranes.
Around 500,000 of the birds stop in an 80 mile stretch of the Platte River for a few weeks during the spring to rest and eat before they finish their trek north to have and raise their chicks.
"It all began with the cranes and it continues to build off the cranes, but also the Platte River, so this migration now is the perfect time to celebrate," says Rowe Director Bill Taddicken.
Today Rowe has grown to around 1,900 acres of year-round conservation and education.
"Forty years ago Audubon volunteers actually were out on those sandbars, by hand, cleaning habitat for the cranes," says Marian Langan, executive director of Audubon Nebraska.
Cranes roost in the middle of the river at night to protect themselves from predators, but in the 70's the sandbars had become overrun by trees and plants.
"The river cleaning and all that is really the major beginning to what we were doing," says Taddicken. "We're also doing lots of grassland restorations and wetland restorations now at Rowe Sanctuary."
State and national Audubon leaders are celebrating the achievement with Rowe as crane season nears its peak.
One leader says the idea behind Rowe isn't new, but with community conservation becoming a hot topic, many are looking to central Nebraska.
"We can have big goals at national, but it won't happen unless it's the people on the ground," says Dr. Chandra Taylor Smith, National Audubon Society's vice president for community conservation and education. "This is a model for us of persistent activity, of people who really are passionate and care."
Taddicken says it's not just the facility or the land, but dozens of volunteers and countless generous donors from all over the country that need celebrating too.
"We raise our entire operating budget right here at Rowe Sanctuary every year," Taddicken says of the non-profit. "Our donors from all over the country and from local are truly what continue to make this happen."
Rowe's festivities continue on Sunday, March 16. Click HERE to visit their schedule of events.