Whooping Cranes’ Fate in Hands of Texas

Liz Smith, International Crane Foundation wrote a powerful article “Forum: Fate of the whooping crane falls into hands of the state …”. The article is in “Caller-Times” and Friends of the Wild Whoopers (FOTWW) received permission to place it on our web site for your convenience.

FOTWW would like to commend Liz Smith, a whooping crane conservation biologist with the International Crane Foundation, on her excellent editorial in today’s Caller.com. We agree 100% with Liz when she states that the “Fate of the whooping crane falls into the hands of the state”.

Liz also writes, “As a coastal scientist working with other professionals to deliver scientifically sound information to guide environmental decisions, I will continue to increase awareness that our system is at a tipping point. It is up to the citizens of Texas to ensure we don’t lose this coastal treasure.

Please let your representatives know that we need a change of attitude about water. Let’s keep this initiative at the forefront of our efforts to save our beautiful Texas coast for future Texans.”

FOTWW agrees, it is up to us, concerned citizens and lovers of these magnificent whooping cranes to keep this initiative at the forefront. Texas citizens, please write to your elected officials. Write op-eds or letters to the editors of newspapers in Texas. Let’s keep this in the forefront and be the voices of those who cannot speak for themselves, our beloved whooping cranes.

Below is Liz’s article as posted on Caller.com.

Forum: Fate of the whooping crane falls into hands of the state
POSTED: 3:04 AM, Jul 25, 2014
TAG: forums (/topic/forums)

The recent ruling by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals does not hold the state of Texas responsible for the fate of whooping cranes in the San Antonio Bay system. As Texans, we should insist that the state take that responsibility seriously. The future of our bays and estuaries hinges on responsible water management that values life and all water users throughout the river basin.

Whooping crane hunting for blue crab. Whooping cranes' fate in Texas' hand.

Whooping crane at Aransas National Wildlife Refuge. Photo courtesy of Kevin Sims

The whooping crane is a flagship for how we manage our waters. Whooping cranes number only about 300 individuals on their wintering grounds in Texas, and after 70 years of recovery from very near extinction their future remains completely dependent on the future of our coasts. The health of our San Antonio Bay system is intricately tied to both the return of Gulf waters through Cedar Bayou and the predictability of freshwater inflows from the Guadalupe and San Antonio river basin. Further misappropriations of flows, which resulted in the death of 8.5 percent of the crane’s population in 2008-2009, could result in the extinction of this
last remaining wild flock.

This places a huge responsibility on maintaining that estuarine system, not only for whooping cranes, but for the bounty of recreational fisheries, tourism and coastal enterprise it sustains.

The International Crane Foundation is one of the many organizations seriously concerned about the mismanagement of fresh water flowing into our coastal systems. We continue to work with all interested partners to find alternatives and viable solutions in our world of finite water availability, especially during drought conditions. Our efforts will not save our bays and estuaries, however, unless the state of Texas recognizes that the ultimate leadership on water management must come from the state.

As a coastal scientist working with other professionals to deliver scientifically sound information to guide environmental decisions, I will continue to increase awareness that our system is at a tipping point. It is up to the citizens of Texas to ensure we don’t lose this coastal treasure. Please let your representatives know that we need a change of attitude about water. Let’s keep this initiative at the forefront of our efforts to save our beautiful Texas coast for future Texans.

Elizabeth H. Smith, Ph.D. is a whooping crane conservation biologist with the International Crane Foundation.

Copyright 2014 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

 

***** FOTWW’s mission is to protect the Aransas/Wood Buffalo population
of wild whooping cranes and their habitat
. *****

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The Crane Track: Whooping Crane Migration Story

School is out for the summer and it’s time to get kids to read books. Friends of the Wild Whoopers recommends “The Crane Track: Whooping Cranes’ Migration … A Tale of Survival” by Gene Steffen.

The Crane Track Whooping Cranes' Migration...book cover

The Crane Track…book cover

The Crane Track uses factual information to build an interesting story. It’s about a two adult whooping cranes and their young chick, Leki. It describes some scary events during their time in the Wood Buffalo nesting area. And then it follows them while they make a 2,400 migration from the Northwest Territories in Canada to Texas.

Leki, the young whooping crane has no idea that a spectacular journey is about to begin. He lives with his parents, Toluki and Karla, in the Northwest Territories of Canada. Leki has had many adventures there, like the day he ran across wild wolves! Still, his biggest adventure is yet to come as his parents prepare for their annual October migration.

Every year, the whooping cranes travel south to warmer climates for the winter. Toluki and Karla plan to take young Leki 2,400 miles, all the way from their home in Canada to a winter resting place near the Gulf of Mexico. The path they take is called “the crane track,” and it is a journey filled with wild weather and hungry hunters.

Whooping cranes are graceful creatures with white feathers and up to an eight-foot wingspan. Once almost extinct, there are now 304 wild whooping cranes in the population that migrates from Wood Buffalo National Park, Canada to Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, Texas. All whoopers in this population travel the same path as Leki and his parents. Nature is a carefully balanced, beautiful machine. It’s up to us to protect the path of the cranes’ migratory journey. So is little Leki up for the trip?

Whooping cranes on Texas coast where sea level rise may alter habitat conditions.

Whooping cranes on Texas coast where sea level rise may alter habitat conditions.

The book follows the Track the cranes make twice each year and was featured on a National Geographic special, Flight of the Whooping Crane. The author, Gene Steffen, was the pilot during the making of that film. This is a great story to teach children about geography, endangered species, migration and the general wonder of our natural environment.

One source for the book is Amazon.com

 

  

***** FOTWW’s mission is to protect the Aransas/Wood Buffalo population
of wild whooping cranes and their habitat
. *****

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FWS Report Spotlights Wetland Loss in Prairie Pothole Region

This article published in the Outdoor News Bulletin, Wildlife Management Institute describes the growing problem of wetland losses in the 5-state Prairie Pothole Region. Regrettably, similar losses are occurring in other regions that include the whooping crane migration route. Friends of the Wild Whoopers will work with all concerned to acquire key wetland stopover sites along the migration corridor for endangered whooping cranes.

Waterfowl in Prairie Pothole Region. Wildlife Management Institute photo.

Waterfowl in Prairie Pothole Region.

A report released July 1 by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), Status and Trends of Prairie Wetlands in the United States, 1997-2009, estimates that the total wetland loss in the Prairie Pothole Region between 1997 and 2009 was 74,340 acres, according to the Wildlife Management Institute. This amounts to an average net loss of 6,200 acres of wetlands per year. However, the report notes that emergent wetlands (emergent marshes and farmed wetlands) declined by an estimated 95,340 acres and shrub wetlands also declined by 46,080 acres. These losses were offset by the increase of 61,280 acres in forested wetlands and the 5,800 acres of new open water ponds over the 12-year period.

“Extreme weather patterns, rising agricultural commodity prices and oil and gas development are threatening millions of acres of prairie wetlands, putting further pressure on the most valuable breeding area for ducks in the Americas,” said FWS Director Dan Ashe. ‘This report highlights the need for continued vigilance in monitoring and protecting the Prairie Pothole Region to ensure it remains healthy for waterfowl for generations to come.”
According to the report, in 2009 there were an estimated 6.43 million acres of wetlands (6.7 percent of the total surface area) in the Prairie Pothole Region (PPR) that is located in parts of Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota Minnesota and Iowa. The current wetland acreage is a 61 percent reduction from the nearly 17 million acres of wetlands that were estimated in the region in the middle of the 19th century. Even with the loss, the PPR contains about 5.8 percent of all wetlands in the conterminous United States.

Emergent wetlands make up about 87.7 percent of the total wetland area and 93 percent of all wetland basins in the PPR. However, the number of emergent wetland acres lost to agriculture and development accounted for 39 percent of all losses; of the 107,000 wetland basins lost in the region during the study period, 96 percent were classified as temporary emergent wetlands. These emergent wetlands are being converted to deepwater habitats or being drained for agricultural purposes. According to the report, 40 percent of the emergent wetland losses were due to the expansion of deeper, more permanent water areas. The report notes the trend towards fewer individual wetlands that cover larger acreage (mean size of wetlands increased from 2.1 acres in 1983 to 3.2 acres in 2009) with longer periods of wetness.

Whooping Crane current and former range and migration corridors.

Whooping Crane current and former range and migration corridors.

In supporting materials, the FWS concluded: “Despite efforts to conserve and restore wetlands in the PPR these resources continue to decline in number, diversity and extent. This puts the future of wetlands and prairie ecosystems in general in flux depending upon climatic shifts in tem­perature and precipitation with the compounding influences of anthropogenic alterations to local and regional land use and hydrology. Long-term trends continue to change the complexion of prairie wetlands from one of diverse wetland sizes and types to fewer wetland basins characterized by longer periods of high water. Prolonged high water conditions are causing some small wetland basins that flooded and dried on an intermittent basis to move toward becoming larger, more permanent wetland/water basins.”

In 2013, researchers from the Prairie Pothole Joint Venture (PPJV) released a peer-reviewed study in the Wildlife Society Bulletin that assessed the conversion rates of both wetlands and grasslands in the region. That studydetermined that when time is incorporated into the conservation planning process, seemingly small wetland and grassland annual loss rates become far greater challenges. With wetland loss rates ranging from 0.05 to 0.57 percent per year and grassland loss ranging from 0.4 to 1.3 percent, PPJV partners will not be able to keep up with the conversion. The authors determined that the partnership would not be able to reach their conservation goals unless greater funding is targeted towards conservation, landowner interest and acceptance of conservation programs remains high, and wetland and grassland loss rates are decreased through public policy (particularly agriculture programs) or other mechanisms.

The full FWS report and other information is available on the USFWS National Wetlands Inventory web site. (pmr & jas)

***** FOTWW’s mission is to protect the Aransas/Wood Buffalo population
of wild whooping cranes and their habitat
. *****

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