New Proposal Puts Endangered Whooping Cranes at Risk
AUGUST 12, 2013 – Former President Jimmy Carter and world-renowned animal researcher Dr. Jane Goodall publicly announced their opposition to the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency’s (TWRA) proposal to allow Sandhill Crane hunting in Tennessee. The proposal, set for a vote by the Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Commission (TFWC) on August 22 and 23 in Knoxville, allows for the issuance of permits to kill more than 2,300 Sandhill Cranes though experts warn that the endangered Whooping Crane is sure to be in the line of fire.
Juvenile Whooping Cranes have a strong resemblance to Sandhills, increasing the risk of reversing the recovery of the highly endangered Whooping Crane. In a letter to the TFWC, President Carter described why the proposal is not worth approving.
“I am an avid hunter of quail, dove, turkey, geese, ducks, and other game fowl, but have for years been a strong vocal and financial supporter of the effort to protect Whooping Cranes and to reestablish the flock that flies over our farm in southwestern Georgia – and also over parts of Tennessee,” wrote Carter. “I understand that your commission is contemplating opening hunting for Sandhill Cranes in Tennessee, and it is obvious that this will make it highly likely that Whooping Cranes might also be killed.”
Tennessee marks the mid-point in the migration of Whooping Cranes from Wisconsin to Florida, making the state one of only a handful of places in the world where tourists, nature enthusiasts and avid birders can enjoy this spectacular and rare species.
A recent study revealed that 62 percent of Tennesseans oppose the hunting of cranes. Organizations including the Tennessee Ornithological Society, National Audubon Society, and Sierra Club in addition to Carter and Goodall are opposed to the Sandhill Crane hunt highlighting the negative environmental and economic consequences of damaging a natural treasure.
“For many, cranes are symbols of peace, a message they carry around the world,” said Dr. Goodall. “The idea that these birds could be hunted for sport is distressing to me, and would be to many others.” Goodall continued, “it is clear that the Sandhills foraging and roosting in freedom during their stay in Tennessee, attracting visitors to view them and other local species, offer a good deal more all round than if hunters are permitted to kill them.”
Both species of cranes primarily congregate in a small area around the TWRA Hiwassee Refuge—at the junction of Meigs, Rhea, and Hamilton Counties—which was recently recognized as the best place in eastern North America to see and photograph cranes. The spectacle of migrating and wintering Sandhill and Whooping Cranes delights and attracts thousands of wildlife viewers to the Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge every year in addition to the thousands that attend the 2-day Tennessee Sandhill Crane Festival each January.
However, the thousands of people who come to Tennessee to see the Sandhills are now in danger of losing that enjoyment. Dr. Goodall appreciates the eco-tourism value of crane watching. “I feel quite sure that many visitors could be attracted to see Sandhill Cranes when they arrive to find refuge in Tennessee and I would be prepared to promote this, if this seemed useful.”
With serious questions of the justifications for this proposal, advocates like President Carter and Dr. Goodall are standing with thousands of Tennesseans to stop this damaging proposal. A decision will be made by the 13-member Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Commission on August 22nd and 23rd, 2013 in Knoxville, Tennessee.
Additional Contacts: Cyndi Routledge
National Audubon Society, Warioto Chapter President
TN Ornithological Society, Secretary
Axel C. Ringe
TN Chapter Sierra Club, Biodiversity Committee Chair