April 9, 2021 in
With North America Programs Director Liz Smith and Land and Water Conservation Director – Texas Terry Turney.
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Whooping Cranes utilize a wide variety of wetland and grassland habitats from their breeding grounds in Northwest Territories, Canada, through the Great Plains on migration and to their wintering range along the Texas coast. Much of the natural landscape in the U.S. has been converted to productive farmland and rangeland, and water is partitioned among agriculture, cities and industry. Whooping Cranes use the remaining wetland and river systems as an oasis for raising their young, migrating across braided river systems with adjacent grain fields and rangeland, and wintering along coastal marshes, ranches and rice and crawfish farms. Through active conservation programs and sustainable agricultural practices, our landscape can still support this endangered species’ recovery and a diversity of other native wildlife and fisheries.
Whooping Crane families and maturing adults are dependent upon large expanses of coastal habitat in Texas and, through their continued population increase, are expanding their winter range northeastward along the coast. The Aransas National Wildlife Refuge acquisition in 1937 provided the critical protection of the last 16 Whooping Cranes. Additional refuges and wildlife management areas dot the Texas coast and provide core habitat areas that are being geographically linked by a diversity of nongovernmental land trusts through acquisition or conservation easements strategies.
We take a systematic approach to identify potential habitat for wintering Whooping Cranes and link these areas to landowner parcels. We connect with ranching and farming families and serve as a liaison between them and our partners to advance various conservation and management options. By addressing both the economic and ecologic benefits, we can move toward a resilient landscape of productive natural and working lands and achieve our goal toward Whooping Crane recovery in North America.