by Chester McConnell, Friends of the Wild Whoopers
Whooping Cranes “stopover habitats” are facing more threats on Quivira National Wildlife Refuge, in Kansas. The refuge is experiencing conflicts with neighboring farmers who want to use more water from a diminishing supply.
Stopover habitats are used during the Whoopers two annual 2,500 mile migrations between Wood Buffalo, Canada nesting grounds and Aransas Refuge, Texas winter habitats. Quivira is one of the more important stopover areas along the migration corridor. Other stopover areas are also facing problems due to changing farming practices and developments of all kinds.
Unfortunately irrigation needs on private farms is problematic to Quivira Refuge. Quivira covers 22,135 acres, largely in Stafford County. About 6,000 acres is wetlands.
Wetlands a haven for whooping cranes and other migratory birds
Thousands of shorebirds and waterfowl migrating through Quivira each season count on reprieve and water at the salt marshes. Mike Oldham, Quivira’s manager estimates a million birds come through the area in the fall and winter including 61 endangered whooping cranes that stopped over there last fall. Quivira officials want to make sure it remains like that.
“Having the available wetlands is a haven to migratory birds, and timing is everything,” said Mike Oldham. “Water depth is a big deal, too – especially in the spring for shorebirds with short legs that need shallower water.” Oldham added.
Regrettably a decades-long struggle continues between providing enough water for the national wildlife refuge and the needs of private land irrigators who surround it.
After years of attempting to work with stakeholders to find solutions, the service in April 2013 filed impairment with the Kansas Department of Agriculture. The Fish and Wildlife Service’s 1957 water right is senior to roughly 95 percent of the basin’s water users. Quivira’s manager Oldham claims, “We’re not receiving the water based on the seasonal needs of wildlife and habitat.” If there is not ample water thousands of migratory birds could be adversely affected including endangered Whooping Cranes
Stopover habitats are essential to Whooping Cranes
Friends of the Wild Whoopers and Gulf Cost Bird Observatory (FOTWW – GCBO) are continuing efforts to identify these threats and help resolve them. Stopover habitats are essential to Whooping Cranes so they can rest and feed during their two annual 2,500 mile migrations. The FOTWW-GCBO team contends that it is imperative that we provide more help to the only wild Whooping Cranes population remaining on earth.
Our FOTWW – GCBO team has recently been focusing efforts on identifying potential “stopover habitats” on military bases within the 2,500 migration corridor. To-date most military base natural managers that we have met with have been very cooperative and a number of important Whooping Crane habitats are slated for improvements. To read more about our stopover habitat project, click here.
***** FOTWW’s mission is to help preserve and protect the Aransas/Wood Buffalo
population of wild whooping cranes and their habitat. *****
Friends of the Wild Whoopers is a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization.