The Platte River Basin includes the lower reaches of the river in Nebraska, and the headwaters of the North Platte in Wyoming and Colorado and of the South Platte in Colorado.

As a free-flowing river prior to modern human settlement, the Platte River had a volume of about 2.5 million acre feet, much of it flowing during the spring run-off. This yearly flood maintained a broad braided streambed. In modern times the spring run-off is sharply attentuated and the streambed is now vegetated. This has affected species which nested on the sandbars in the river or relied on the wet meadows irrigated by spring run-off.

There are four endangered species (as well as other wildlife) which are impacted by the current condition of the Central and Lower Platte River in Nebraska: the Whooping Crane which stops at the river during migration, the Piping Plover, the Interior Least Tern, and the Pallid Sturgeon. Projected efforts under the Platte River Recovery Implementation Program to improve the environment include acquisition of additional land for wildlife reserves and increased flow in the river. The Platte River Recovery Implementation Program was created by a cooperative agreement made July 1, 1997 between Colorado, Wyoming, Nebraska and the U.S. Department of the Interior .

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