WASHINGTON, D.C. (USFS) — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has cleared the way
for the reintroduction of whooping cranes in Louisiana a half century
after these endangered birds were last seen in the state, Secretary of the
Interior Ken Salazar announced today.
The Interior Department's U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service published a
regulation designating a potential Louisiana's population as a
non-essential, experimental population under the Endangered Species Act.
This designation would allow the Service to effectively manage a
reintroduced population. The reintroduction of whooping cranes to
Louisiana could begin later this month.
"The whooping crane is an iconic species that should be returned and
restored to health along the Gulf Coast," Salazar said. "In partnership
with the State of Louisiana, and thanks to the remarkable work of our
scientists and experts, we believe we are ready to bring whoopers back.
The reintroduction of these remarkable birds will be a milestone moment
for the Gulf Coast and in our continuing commitment to the protection and
restoration of America's Great Outdoors."
The last record of a whooping crane in Louisiana dates back to 1950, when
the last surviving whooping crane was removed from Vermilion Parish
property that is now part of Louisiana Department of Wildlife and
Fisheries' White Lake Wetlands Conservation Area.
In cooperation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S.
Geological Survey, and the Louisiana Cooperative Fish and Wildlife
Research Unit, LDWF plans to release the first group of non-migratory
whooping cranes at the conservation area in early 2011.
The reintroduction of the whooping crane is a model of the kind of
partnership in conservation called by President Obama when he unveiled his
America's Great Outdoors Initiative to create a new conservation ethic for
the 21st century and reconnect Americans to the great outdoors, Salazar
"Working with states and local communities to achieve our conservation
goals is at the heart of the America's Great Outdoors Initiative," Salazar
"We strongly support the State of Louisiana in this historic effort for
the ultimate recovery of the magnificent whooping crane," said Cindy
Dohner, the Service's Southeast Regional Director. "We are proud to be
partners with Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Secretary
Robert Barham, the Canadian Wildlife Service, the U.S. Geological Survey,
and the International Crane Foundation in this great effort."
The proposed designation of a non-migratory flock of whooping cranes for
reintroduction to Louisiana was first published in the Federal Register on
August 19, 2010. Public comments were received and two public hearings
(Gueydan and Baton Rouge) were held to allow public comment. Comments were
accepted through October 18, 2010 and were generally found to be
supportive of the overall reintroduction effort.
The Service announced today in the Federal Register the final designation
of Louisiana's non-essential, experimental population (NEP) of the
endangered whooping crane. The non-migratory flock coming to Louisiana
will carry that designation under the provisions of the Endangered Species
Act. This designation and its implementing regulation are developed to be
more compatible with routine human activities in the reintroduction area.
"LDWF has proven through implementing recovery efforts for species like
the American alligator and the brown pelican that the expertise and
willingness to implement a long-term restoration plan for high priority
trust resources are assets our biologists bring to projects," Barham said.
Whooping cranes are the most endangered of all of the world's crane
species, first added to the list of endangered species on March 11, 1967.
Louisiana's reintroduction is part of a larger ongoing recovery effort led
by the Service and its partners for this highly imperiled species, which
was on the verge of extinction in the 1940s and even today has only about
400 individuals in the wild.
"The return of whooping cranes to their home in Louisiana, after an
absence of more than a half-century, salutes the values of a state that
shelters some of the largest and most important wetlands on the
continent," said George Archibald, co-founder of the International Crane
The only self-sustaining wild population of whooping cranes migrates
between Wood Buffalo National Park in the Northwest Territories of Canada
and Aransas National Wildlife Refuge in Texas. Like those in the eastern
migratory population, it remains vulnerable to extinction from continued
loss of habitat or natural or man-made catastrophes. Multiple efforts are
underway to reduce this risk and bring this magnificent bird further along
its path to recovery. This includes increasing populations in the wild,
ongoing efforts to establish a migratory population in the eastern United
States, and establishing a resident population in Louisiana.
For more information on whooping cranes and the re-introduction of
whooping cranes to Louisiana, please visit the LDWF's website at
and the International Crane Foundation at: http://www.savingcranes.org/