Corps of Engineer lakes in Oklahoma being evaluated for Whooping Crane “stopover habitats”

By Pam Bates, Friends of the Wild Whoopers

Whooping Cranes migrate 2,500 miles two times each year between their nesting area in Wood Buffalo National Park, Canada and their Aransas Wildlife Refuge winter habitat on the Texas coast. During these migrations they must stop to rest and feed 15 to 30 times. Friends of the Wild Whoopers (FOTWW) is searching for areas to provide these essential “stopover habitats”. Stopover habitats are equally as important as nesting and winter habitats.

Fort Supply Lake

Fort Supply Lake in northwest Oklahoma is one of four Corps of Engineer (COE) Lakes that have recently been evaluated to determine if they have any existing or potential “stopover habitat” for migrating Whooping Cranes.  FOTWW visited the four lakes as part of its continuing efforts to encourage protection and management of decreasing habitat for migrating Whooping Cranes.

Despite heavy rainfall, flooding and high water levels in three lakes FOTWW‘s wildlife Biologist Chester McConnell explained that: “Our evaluation team continued towork in the challenging conditions. Fortunately COE and Oklahoma Wildlife Division (ODWC) personnel accompanied me and they were well informed about the lake’s habitats. So, together, we successfully identified some good stopover habitat sites.” Fort Supply Lake is just one of many COE lakes that FOTWW has, and will be evaluating. The Operation Management Plan FY 2014 thru 2018 covers information for the COE area of primary management responsibility. The “Wildlife Management/Hunting program” is described in a separate document prepared by ODWC. The lake was authorized under the Flood Control Act approved June 22, 1936. Construction of the lake was begun in October 1938 and completed in August 1942.  There is a total of 9,899 acres of project land and water. The lake covers 1,786 surface acres of open water. A total of 8,079 acres are used for wildlife management, recreation and project operations. Although the primary mission is flood control, important secondary benefits are water supply, recreation, and natural resource management. Importantly one of the natural resources needing the lake is the only wild population of wild Whooping Cranes remaining on earth.

Whooping Cranes observed at fort supply lake

FOTWW is aware that Fort Supply Lake, has been used by Whooping Cranes and we expect that to continue and increase. Both USACE and ODWC personnel have observed Whooping Cranes on the lake several times.

Fort Supply Lake, Oklahoma. Figure 1.  Two members of the team returning from a cruise around Fort Supply Lake to evaluate potential Whooping Crane "stopover habitats". Eric Summers, Assistant Lake Manager, Corps of Engineers (on right) guided the evaluation team on lake waters.  Eddie Wilson, Senior Biologist, Oklahoma Wildlife Division (on left) guided us on a tour of the wildlife management areas around the lake. These men are very informed about the lake and its surrounding wildlife habitats, vegetation and water levels. McConnell said “Their assistance was invaluable and greatly appreciated.”  Photo by Chester McConnell, Friends of the Wild Whoopers.
Figure 1.  Two members of the team returning from a cruise around Fort Supply Lake to evaluate potential Whooping Crane “stopover habitats”. Eric Summers, Assistant Lake Manager, Corps of Engineers (on right) guided the evaluation team on lake waters.  Eddie Wilson, Senior Biologist, Oklahoma Wildlife Division (on left) guided us on a tour of the wildlife management areas around the lake. These men are very informed about the lake and its surrounding wildlife habitats, vegetation and water levels. McConnell said “Their assistance was invaluable and greatly appreciated.”  Photo by Chester McConnell, Friends of the Wild Whoopers.
Fort Supply Lake, Oklahoma Figure 2. The short grass, shallow water and absence of trees and bushes in this photo cause it to be suitable for Whooping Crane “stopover habitat” during normal water levels. During our evaluation, abundant rain (8+ inches) caused the lake depth to be deeper than normal. Water depths vary occasionally due to abundant rain and long drought periods. Importantly, due to various shore configurations, when one area of a lake is not suitable, some other area of the lake will likely be suitable. Photo by Chester McConnell, Friends of the Wild Whoopers.
Figure 2.  The short grass, shallow water and absence of trees and bushes in this photo cause it to be suitable for Whooping Crane “stopover habitat” during normal water levels. During our evaluation, abundant rain (8+ inches) caused the lake depth to be deeper than normal. Water depths vary occasionally due to abundant rain and long drought periods. Importantly, due to various shore configurations, when one area of a lake is not suitable, some other area of the lake will likely be suitable. Photo by Chester McConnell, Friends of the Wild Whoopers.
Fort Supply Lake, Oklahoma Figure  3. This photo identifies a 3 to 4acre site near the lake that could be developed into a shallow water“stopover  habitat” (3 inches to 6 inches deep) for Whooping Cranes and other wild creatures. The vegetation in the area could be treated with herbicide and burned when dry. A low level berm as outlined can be constructed around the developed pond to hold shallow water for a “stopover habitat”. This small wetland would operate independently from the water levels in the lake. Photo by Chester McConnell, Friends of the Wild Whoopers.
Figure 3.  This photo identifies a 3 to 4 acre site near the lake that could be developed into a shallow water“stopover  habitat” (3 inches to 6 inches deep) for Whooping Cranes and other wild creatures. The vegetation in the area could be treated with herbicide and burned when dry. A low level berm as outlined can be constructed around the developed pond to hold shallow water for a “stopover habitat”. This small wetland would operate independently from the water levels in the lake. Photo by Chester McConnell, Friends of the Wild Whoopers.
Fort Supply Lake, Oklahoma. Figure 4. This photo and figure 3 reveals conditions at the 3 to 4 acre site near the lake that could be developed into a shallow water habitat for Whooping Cranes and other wild creatures. The area vegetation could be treated with herbicide and burned when dry. A low level berm (Fig. 3) can be constructed around the pond to hold shallow water (3 inches to 6 inches deep) for a “stopover habitat”. Photo by Chester McConnell, Friends of the Wild Whoopers.
Figure 4.  This photo and figure 3 reveals conditions at the 3 to 4 acre site near the lake that could be developed into a shallow water habitat for Whooping Cranes and other wild creatures. The area vegetation could be treated with herbicide and burned when dry. A low level berm (Fig. 3) can be constructed around the pond to hold shallow water (3 inches to 6 inches deep) for a “stopover habitat”. Photo by Chester McConnell, Friends of the Wild Whoopers.
Fort Supply Lake, Oklahoma. Figure 5. ODWC operates the wildlife management and hunting programs on 5,418 acres ofFort Supply Lake. This photo illustrates one of their 21 food plots on the lake property. Whooping Cranes will forage for grain and insects in such plots.
Figure 5.  ODWC operates the wildlife management and hunting programs on 5,418 acres of Fort Supply Lake. This photo illustrates one of their 21 food plots on the lake property. Whooping Cranes will forage for grain and insects in such plots. Photo by Chester McConnell, Friends of the Wild Whoopers.

***** 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.

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GivingTuesday 2018

This Tuesday, the 27th is GivingTuesday 2018. If you are considering giving on GivingTuesday, please consider giving to Friends of the Wild Whoopers, (FOTWW).

FOTWW has completed “stopover habitat” evaluations on 32 military facilities, 8 Indian Reservations and 12 U.S. Army Corps of Engineers lakes within the wild Whooping Crane six state migration corridor. All of the evaluations were done at no cost to the facilities, reservations or USACE, but were made possible by donations from our supporters who believe in our mission. Our “stopover habitat” is in its infancy with many lakes and potential habitats remaining to be evaluated.

Every donation that we receive is greatly appreciated and will go toward Whooping Crane conservation and our ongoing “stopover habitat” efforts to help preserve and protect the Aransas/Wood Buffalo population of wild whooping cranes and their habitat.

GivingTuesday
GivingTuesday 2018

***** 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.

wild whooping cranes
friendsofthewildwhoopers.org

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Here’s where to find the early arrivals of the South Texas flock of whooping cranes

, Corpus Christi Caller Times

South Edge
Photo by Rockport Birding & Kayak Adventures

Excitement surrounds the first arrivals to South Texas of what is expected to be a record migration of endangered whooping cranes.

While fewer than 20 of the iconic 5-foot birds have been reported by casual observers and birders north of Rockport, officials with the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge estimate that about 25 percent of the flock, or 100 to 120 cranes, may already be in and around the refuge.

While a few had not left Canada as of this week, observers have reported seeing whooping cranes in every state along the Central Flyway from North Dakota to Texas, said the refuge’s Wade Harrell, whooping crane coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

“Based on what we’ve seen the last few years, it’ll likely be late December or early January before the entire population is in coastal Texas,” Harrell said.

The migration to Texas can take up to 50 days, with the population typically traveling in small groups and stopping to rest and refuel along the way.

Chester McConnell, president of the Friends of the Wild Whoopers nonprofit group, has been negotiating with military officials and Native American tribes along the flock’s migratory route to boost crane survival. McConnell’s goal is to partner with landowners to enhance wetlands along the Central Flyway.

This effort has resulted in unprecedented cooperation between the wild whooper group and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at suitable stopover sites in Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota and North Dakota, McConnell said.

To read David Sikes’ entire article, click here.

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Powderhorn Ranch Becomes Texas’ Newest Wildlife Management Area

Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation Transfers Acclaimed Conservation Land

Powderhorn Ranch
Photo: Courtesy Of Texas Parks And Wildlife Department

AUSTIN – Over 15,000 acres of the Powderhorn Ranch along the Texas coast in Calhoun County, prime unspoiled coastal prairie, is now a state wildlife management area. The newest crown jewel in the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) system is the result of a unique conservation land acquisition coalition led by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation (TPWF).

The just-completed transfer of the property to the department is the culmination of a multi-year, $37.7 million land acquisition deal. Safeguarding this natural treasure has been contemplated for more than 30 years by several conservation organizations and wildlife agencies including The Conservation Fund, The Nature Conservancy, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF), and TPWD.

These organizations played a critical role in the acquisition and long-term conservation of this property. TPWF spearheaded the fundraising for the $50 million project, which includes the purchase of the property, habitat restoration and management, as well as a long-term endowment.

A significant portion of the funding for the project has been provided by NFWF’s Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund, which was created with dollars paid by BP and Transocean in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. NFWF has provided $34.5 million for the project, making this the biggest land acquisition in the nation so far using BP spill restoration dollars.

“The department is privileged to be the steward of this unique and ecologically significant piece of the Texas Coast that the conservation community has worked so hard to protect,” said Clayton Wolf, TPWD Wildlife Division Director. “We look forward to managing these valuable natural resources for current and future generations of Texans to enjoy.”

Management activities on the Powderhorn WMA are already under way with the first public deer hunt scheduled this week. Although public access to the property will be limited as operations and infrastructure gear up, the area is anticipating offering opportunities for low impact activities like guided group birding tours as early as spring 2019.

“Our primary management objectives right now focus on the restoration of native grassland and savannah, and for improving existing hydrology to enhance freshwater wetlands habitat for wildlife, particularly whooping cranes that have expanded onto the property,” said Dan Walker, area manager at Powderhorn WMA. “We’ve already made progress toward returning the land to grassland prairie, clearing dense brush on about 4,000 acres. This restoration effort will be very valuable for research and as a demonstration area for landowners in coastal counties from Matagorda to Willacy.”

The remaining acreage at Powderhorn Ranch is earmarked as the future site of a state park. Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation will complete additional infrastructure and habitat improvement projects for the transfer to the State Parks division within the next five years.

The larger acreage transfer marks a major milestone in the multimillion-dollar project. TPWF has now completed several of the goals it set out as part of this collaboration with multiple conservation partners, including completing initial work to restore thousands of acres of native coastal prairie, raising an endowment for continued habitat management, and placing a conservation easement on the property.

“With the transfer to Texas Parks and Wildlife Department of approximately 15,000 acres of Powderhorn Ranch, Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation is fulfilling a promise to our partners and to the people of Texas to restore, conserve and provide recreational access to one of the largest remaining tracts of undisturbed native habitat on the Texas coast,” said TPWF Executive Director Anne Brown.

2018-10-25

 

***** 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.

Powderhorn Ranch
friendsofthewildwhoopers.org
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