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Preservation of whooping cranes is our public duty

Published Sep. 10, 2005

Editor: The letter by Jack Jackson about the whooping cranes left me wondering how anyone could write such an incoherent letter. Apparently Mr. Jackson would like us to allow the whooping cranes to become extinct, possibly with the help of hunters such as he. Or perhaps we should just not use any federal or state funds in any way to preserve a heritage to pass on to our children. That is apparently the American way to which this letter refers.

Let's just let the boaters chew up the manatees and the developers ruin the ecology and who cares except the few nuts who would like to enjoy rather than destroy.

A. William Clark


Whooping Crane Reintroduction

Program is joint U.S.-Canada project

Editor: On Nov. 7 the Citrus Times published a letter from Jack Jackson suggesting we could save millions and billions of dollars if we simply killed off the whooping cranes. His article reflected a really poor perception of the facts related to the Whooping Crane Reintroduction Program.

As a starter, this is not a U.S., but rather a joint U.S.-Canada project. To be sure, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is responsible for protecting the whooping crane and other endangered species in the United States. But the facts are they accomplish this with a very modest level of funding and a huge amount of private support from the United States and Canada.

Mr. Jackson implies Operation Migration has been "hired" by the USFWS to conduct the flying portion of the reintroduction. The truth is that our Canadian friends at Operation Migration are contributing their entire effort this year and each subsequent year to the whooping crane reintroduction.

The International Crane Foundation and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Foundation are making similar, very significant contributions in other areas, such as hatching, raising and training the birds. These are nonprofit, privately funded organizations. There are actually nine organizations teamed to support the current eastern migration program. And there are many, many people all along the flyway, such as our own Dr. Mark Lowe, who contribute their skills to assist this project.

The fact is that the Whooping Crane Reintroduction Program is heavily supported by nongovernment funds.

Heather Ray of Operation Migration said: "Anyone that challenges what the migration team earns gets my hackles up in a big way. The truth is that pilot Joe Duff has contributed almost all of his time for many, many years and has sacrificed a very successful career to join this program and fly with the birds. During training and migration the team members all make huge sacrifices and live in less than desirable conditions, away from home for months at a time. Joe has a new wife and a 2-year-old girl. Of the Operation Migration field team currently on migration, pilots Don and Paula Lounsbury volunteer their aircraft and their time. They provide their own travel-trailer. Pilot Deke Clark, and his wife, Rebecca, are also volunteers. In fact Deke and Rebecca have donated $10,000 each year to the project. Chrysler has donated two of the ground support vehicles. Gordon Lee and Richard Van Heuvelen volunteer as ground support. During the migration part of the project OM people work 12-16 hours per day."

So much for getting billions of dollars back from these guys.

Mr. Jackson is right in noting that for his entire life the whooping cranes have been a national concern. In the 1920s all but a few folks wrote off the whooping crane. In 1922 Canada set aside the Wood Buffalo National Park to protect bison. It wasn't until 30 years later that it was discovered that the last few whooping cranes were nesting in Wood Buffalo National Park. (Repeat: That is a Canadian park.) In 1937 the Arkansas National Refuge was established for wintering grounds for the cranes, but parts of that refuge have since been given away.

As for the flyway between Arkansas and Wood Buffalo, many of the stopover points are on private, as well as public, lands. But nothing on the flyway has been set aside specifically for the whooping cranes. So, let's not charge off "vast" U.S. National Wildlife Refuges to this one project.

Finally, who needs whooping cranes anyway? There is more to consider here than human wealth. Ethically all forms of life on earth have a right to exist and esthetically, the diversity and texture of life's fabric is enhanced in some degree by every species. This great bird, the largest in the Americas, is a symbol of many things: of conservation, of survival under odds, of regal beauty, of wilderness. I am glad to have seen whooping cranes in the wild; I hope my grandchildren and succeeding generations also will see this magnificent creature that has survived on the North American continent for some 40- to 60-million years.

Should our actions extinguish this species, we have failed in our role as caretakers of our planet, and endangered ourselves as well.

Ron Miller, president

Citrus County Audubon Society