Since January, we have a faced a dizzying array of proposed policy changes and budget cuts at the national level. These include potential cutbacks to the Endangered Species Act, Environmental Protection Agency, Clean Water Rule, US Fish and Wildlife Service, and reduced commitments to climate change agreements and our National Wildlife Refuge system. Our members ask, what should I do? How can I help safeguard cranes, wetlands and freshwater? We are urging everyone to get involved in these issues and share your views.
Here in Wisconsin, there is an important opportunity to make your voice heard. The Wisconsin Conservation Congress recently reignited a state-wide debate by including a vote on a Sandhill Crane hunting season in their annual spring hearing. As expected, the congress (which nearly always votes strongly in favor of hunting proposals) approved the Sandhill hunting season – but this time, it was only by a very narrow margin. The close vote revealed what our members already know, that cranes are not just another game species – they evoke a strong emotional and spiritual connection for many people. Sandhill Crane recovery in Wisconsin has been successful because cranes and their habitats are valued and supported by hunters, wildlife enthusiasts, farmers and other landowners alike. The vote was advisory only but could be a first step in the process of potentially establishing a hunt in Wisconsin. The Wisconsin State Legislature will now decide whether it will pursue a Sandhill Crane hunting season and, if so, mandate the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources to develop a hunt. Please help us urge the legislature to abandon this pursuit – here are two of the important reasons why:
Hunting is not a solution for Sandhill Crane crop damage – but we are actively involved in solving this problem. We are very concerned about the impact of increasing numbers of Sandhill Cranes on Wisconsin farmers and corn crops (the cranes may feed on the germinating corn seed after planting). Hunting Sandhill Cranes in the fall will not solve crane crop damage that occurs in the spring. To solve this problem, we played a key role in developing an effective non-toxic chemical deterrent (Avipel) that offers a better alternative for reducing crop damage than hunting cranes. The total acreage treated by farmers has steadily grown each year since we first received permission to deploy the technique from the EPA in 2006. Because the cranes continue to feed on other food (such as insects) in Avipel-treated crops, this approach doesn’t transfer the crane crop damage elsewhere as other deterrents might.
Accidental shooting of Whooping Cranes is a big risk. We have worked for 17 years to reintroduce the Whooping Crane to Wisconsin. The loss of any adult breeding birds in this young population would be devastating. A Sandhill Crane hunting season would increase the risk of the accidental shooting of Whooping Cranes and require extensive effort to avoid these risks. Since the establishment of the Eastern Migratory Population of Whooping Cranes in 2001, at least ten Whooping Cranes have been shot, accounting for over 20% of the population’s mortality.
Make your voice heard
With 44 years of conservation and research experience on behalf of cranes worldwide, the International Crane Foundation is a trusted source of information on Sandhill Cranes and a strong advocate for the healthy landscapes they need. You too CAN make a difference. We urge you to speak out for Sandhill Cranes, and against any threats to clean water, wetlands and endangered species protections. Click here to find contact information for your representatives.
Not long ago, it was a rare treat to see a Sandhill Crane in the wild. Today, Sandhills are flourishing across our state, and we delight in the congregation of thousands each fall on the Wisconsin River close to our headquarters in Baraboo. All of us – hunters, farmers, and nature lovers alike – can take pride in their spectacular recovery. With your help, this story will continue for generations to come.