May 14, 2009

Cranes Get Boost In Crapo-Feingold Legislation

Bipartisan Crane Conservation Act passes committee

Washington, D.C. - Some of the most endangered birds in the world, including whooping cranes, will get needed assistance under legislation approved today by the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee. Senators Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), a member of the Committee, and Ranking Member on the Subcommittee on Water and Wildlife, and Russ Feingold (D-Wisconsin) sponsored the Crane Conservation Act.

The legislation establishes a grant program to fund international and domestic crane conservation projects and encourage the Department of Interior to seek input from individuals and organizations actively involved in crane conservation. The legislation is cosponsored by Committee Chair Barbara Boxer (D-California) and Senators Sam Brownback (R-Kansas), Ben Cardin (D-Maryland), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-New York), John Kerry (D-Massachusetts), Herb Kohl (D-Wisconsin), Mary Landrieu (D-Louisiana), Mel Martinez (R-Florida) and Bill Nelson (D-Florida). Companion legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives sponsored by Representative Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisconsin) was passed by the House of Representatives on April 21, 2009.

"Congress needs to act to prevent any setbacks in the progress that has been achieved," Crapo said. "The Crane Conservation Act is a results-oriented and respectful approach to conservation and it will lead to better species conservation policy in our country. It moves us past the paper chase of listing new species while working to ensure a future for endangered species."

"Today marks another critical step toward protecting cranes from extinction," Feingold said. "Now more than ever, this legislation is critically needed as Wisconsin has recently seen a group of whooping cranes abandon their nests. This setback for crane conservation is just another example of why we must pass this legislation. I will continue to work with Senator Crapo, Representative Baldwin and others to enact this bill so cranes receive the protection they need."

Idaho and Wisconsin play an important role in the conservation of cranes, which rank among the most endangered family of birds in the world, with eleven of the world's fifteen species at risk of extinction. In the 1970s, attempts were made to reintroduce the rarest crane, the North American Whooping Crane, into the migratory route of sandhill cranes between Idaho and New Mexico, after whooping cranes had disappeared from this route nearly a century earlier. Today, that route supports sandhill cranes and efforts shifted to the east to rely not on other crane species but a "mother" aircraft to help whooping cranes repopulate in the wild. Since 2001, efforts to establish an eastern migratory route for whooping cranes between Wisconsin and Florida have involved the cooperative efforts of federal and state governments, landowners, volunteers, and non-governmental organizations to assist flocks of whooping cranes as they migrate thousands of miles. A third naturally occurring migratory route extends from Canada via Montana to Texas' Aransas National Wildlife Refuge.

The Crane Conservation Act is supported by the International Crane Foundation, American Bird Conservancy, Association of Zoos and Aquariums, Audubon Nature Institute, Defenders of Wildlife, National Wildlife Refuge Association, Wildlife Conservation Society, World Wildlife Fund, and fifteen other conservation organizations.


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