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Whoopers Coming Back to Louisiana
The Louisiana Wildlife Federation has been advocating the restoration of the whooping crane to Louisiana for many years. The LWF adopted a resolution at its annual convention in 1999 suporting whooper reintroduction which was followed in 2007 by a Senate Concurrent Resolution expressing the state’s support which LWF promoted and helped draft. The SCR was sponsored by Senator Nick Gautreaux along with several co-sponsors and adopted by the Louisiana Legislature. LWF provided a briefing paper to members of the Louisiana Congressional Delegation in 2007 and in February of 2008 pitched the idea to the director of the US Fish & Wildlife Service (USF&WS/Service) while he was at the Louisiana Governor’s Mansion to sign the papers proposing the removal of the brown pelican from the list of endangered species.
Talks have been on-going between the Louisiana Department of Wildlife & Fisheries (LDWF) and others and the USF&WS for the past few years to determine the possibility and feasibility of a whooping crane reintroduction. LWF was told in 2007 that it would take at least 5 years before a decision could be made, but several events have occurred since then, including hurricanes and the general failure of the effort to establish whoopers in Florida which have caused the Service and other whooper advocates to look to Louisiana to help with the recovery of the species.
photo by USFWS-Steve Hillebrand
Last year representatives with the USF&WS appeared at the fall meeting of the White Lake Property Advisory Board to ask if Louisiana would partner in a program to bring the whoopers back to the state. In the meantime the LDWF has been quietly visiting with major landowners and communities in the White Lake area who might have concerns with establishing a population of one of the world’s most endangered species in their backyards, and determining strategies and costs for managing the introduction, including costs of the research and monitoring program that will be required by the Service to demonstrate the success of any reintroduction effort. Whooping cranes that would be introduced would be considered part of a nonessential experimental population and therefore would not trigger the usual restriction on private activities that the presence of an endangered species normally does.
The August 19, 2010 Federal Register contains a notice proposing the beginning of a program to reintroduce whooping cranes to Louisiana. If the proposal is finally approved, 6-8 young whooping cranes will be brought to the White Lake Wetlands Conservation Area in Vermilion Parish in February of next year to begin the acclimation process. If all goes well, 15-30 birds will be added each year until the flock is self-sustaining.
Now that the proposal for whooper reintroduction is public, the campaign to bring this iconic native species back home can commence in earnest. LWF submitted comments in support of the reintroduction. Although the public comment period has closed, whooper advocates are encouraged to voice their support to the the LDWF, Service, elected officials and other influential members of their communities.
Here is more information on whooping cranes and the reintroduction effort in Louisiana.