BARABOO NEWS-REPUBLIC

ICF joins Texas group in lawsuit for cranes

Mar 11, 2010 | Baraboo News-Republic by Christie Taylor | TAP In The News

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The International Crane Foundation joined forces Thursday with a Texas conservation group in a lawsuit against the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, saying the commission’s management of water permits is leading to droughts which threaten endangered whooping cranes wintering in the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge.

Rich Beilfuss, the foundation’s vice president of programs, said during the 2008-2009 winter, 23 wild whooping cranes died at the refuge, or about 8.5 percent of the total whooping crane population.

The International Crane Foundation is one of only a small handful of other organizations in the country which hatches, raises, and releases whooping crane chicks into the wild.

Beilfuss said cranes were suffering from low inflows of freshwater from the Guadalupe River into the Aransas refuge, thanks to, he said, the commission’s over-allocation of those waters to human uses.

“If inflows are reduced … whooping cranes are forced to make daily flights to freshwater to drink,” he said. “These flights use up energy, reduce time available for foraging or resting, and make the cranes more vulnerable to predation on the uplands.

“We fear that these die-offs will become more frequent in the coming years and could lead to the demise of the whooping cranes.”

The Aransas Project, the Texas coalition which filed the lawsuit, is seeking a habitat conservation plan under the Endangered Species Act, including a management plan for the Guadalupe River that would require strict accounting of water use in the basin and ensure fresh water flows into the refuge, especially during drought conditions.

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