Sandhill cranes soaring above the Platte River grace a new stamp celebrating Nebraska's sesquicentennial.
Michael Forsberg, a wildlife and conservation photographer and assistant professor of practice in the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's Department of Agricultural Leadership, Education and Communication, took the photo for the stamp on conservation land near Wood River around 2000.
Forsberg, a Nebraska native, said he spent nearly a month trying to capture the photo, which shows the birds migrating at sunset. He had to tuck himself among prairie grasses on the riverbank and wait for the right time.
"The tendency of a wildlife photographer is to try and get as close as possible to capture intimate portraits, but what was more important for me was capturing the cranes within the landscape they call home," he said.
More than 500,000 sandhill cranes stop along the Platte River Basin in March and early April each year in a spectacle unique to Nebraska.
A dedication ceremony for the Nebraska Statehood Forever Stamp took place March 1 at the Nebraska State Capitol.
Forsberg, who also has a courtesy appointment in the university's School of Natural Resources, co-founded the Platte Basin Timelapse Project – a partnership between Michael Forsberg Photography, the university and NET Television – in 2011. As part of the project, time-lapse camera systems have been set up throughout the river basin to capture how water travels through the ecosystem. For his work on the project, Forsberg will be honored March 3 with the North American Nature Photography Association's Environmental Impact Award.
Recently named one of "150 Notable Nebraskans" by the Lincoln Journal Star, Forsberg has been a wildlife and conservation photographer for more than 20 years. His work is primarily based in North America's Great Plains. This is the second time the U.S. Postal Service has used one of his images for a stamp. In 2001, his photograph of a Nebraska tallgrass prairie was used for an international stamp.
Forsberg said the stamp is significant to him because of its emphasis on nature.
"We need to maintain the integrity of our natural resources to do everything else that we want to do," he said. "There is no economy without the ecological integrity of everything that's shown in that photo, and this stamp provides an opportunity to remind us of that."
The Postal Service traditionally issues commemorative stamps at intervals of 50 years from the date of a state's first entry into the union. Nebraska became the 37th state on March 1, 1867.
Haley Steinkuhler | IANR Media