The Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership

The Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership (WCEP: say "WEE-sep") includes the following agencies and organizations who are leading the effort to reintroduce a migratory flock of whooping cranes to the eastern United States. The goal is to establish a breeding population of at least 25 pairs.

Operation Migration
Operation Migration (OM) is a Canadian non-profit private organization founded in 1994 to fund research into aircraft-led migration. For many species the ability to migrate is a learned process and when the last bird is gone from an area, that route is lost forever. OM has developed a method for re-establishing these routes by teaching captive-reared birds to follow specially designed ultralight aircraft. OM has conducted several successful migration studies leading three species of birds to winter habitat, and now the technique has been refined for whooping cranes. OM trained birds for a preliminary study using sandhill cranes as research surrogates s in 2000-01. This "dress rehearsal" was a harbinger of success, and now the OM team is leading a new flock of whooping cranes from Wisconsin to Florida in 2001. OM also participates in education, outreach and fundraising.

International Crane Foundation
Since its founding in 1973, the International Crane Foundation (ICF), a non-profit organization, focuses attention on the conservation of the world's fifteen species of cranes. Through programs in education, research, field ecology, captive propagation and reintroduction, ICF helps to ensure the survival of cranes and their habitats throughout the world. ICF will have an active role in the reintroduction of an eastern migratory population of whooping cranes. The new flock will be released in Wisconsin and taught to migrate to Florida. ICF will educate the public about the reintroduction effort through outreach programs and on-site tours. The ICF Crane Conservation Department will provide expertise in rearing chicks for release, and monitor the health of the new flock. The ICF Development Team will participate in securing funding for this project.

International Whooping Crane Recovery Team (WCRT)
The Whooping Crane Recovery Team consists of ten crane experts to provide policy recommendations to the Regional Directors of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and Canadian Wildlife Service who appoint five members respectively. The Team writes a plan to recover the species. Its primary goal is to plan actions to fully protect the Aransas/Wood Buffalo natural flock, and establish two additional flocks in order to save the species. Using cranes hatched in captivity, they began efforts in 1993 to establish a nonmigratory whooping crane flock in Florida. There are currently about 88 whooping cranes in central Florida. The Recovery Team has searched North America for the best place to establish a migratory population. In September, 1999, the Team recommended that a whooping crane flock be established using ultralight aircraft to teach a migration pathway between central Wisconsin and the west coast of Florida.

United States Fish and Wildlife Service

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Canadian Wildlife Service are given the responsibility by law to recover endangered species. The Service will facilitate a diverse partnership of federal, state and private organizations whose common goal is to establish a second migratory flock of whooping cranes in the eastern states. Additionally, the Service has primary responsibility for operations at the Wisconsin release site (Necedah National Wildlife Refuge) and the Florida wintering site (Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge). As part of the overall team, the Service is also responsible for flyway states coordination, budget development and project outreach and communications.

Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources
The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is the state agency charged with managing Wisconsin's environment from fish and wildlife, to air, water, land and outdoor recreation. Wisconsin was the first state to officially partner with the Whooping Crane Recovery Team (WCRT) and the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service in the effort to establish an eastern migrating population of whooping cranes and was chosen by the WCRT as the summer nesting site. The state maintains and manages a portion of the wetland complex that will support the whooping crane flock, and has supplied much of the environmental data used to assess the suitability of the Wisconsin site where the cranes will be released. The DNR is also funding the project coordinatorâs position and is providing many staff and department resources to the project.

Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin
The Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin is a non-profit organization that promotes the knowledge, enjoyment, and stewardship of Wisconsinâs natural resources by providing educational programs and financially empowering grassroots as well as professional environmental programs. We help a variety of DNR programs in need of private sector support, but actively fundraise for selected major projects, like the whooping crane recovery effort. We are committed to raise start-up funds for the projectâs first three years to help construct facilities and purchase equipment critical to the projectâs success.

Patuxent Wildlife Research Center
Patuxent Wildlife Research Center (Patuxent) of the U. S. Geological Survey provides research support to client bureaus in the Dept. of Interior. Included are the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U. S. Park Service, and the Bureau of Land Management and other clients in the United States. Patuxent is located in Laurel, MD on 12,800 acres of land managed for a diversity of mid-Atlantic habitats. Patuxent raises about two-thirds of all whooping cranes raised for release to the wild and will supply a substantial number of whooping cranes for the Wisconsin to Florida release project. Patuxent will also provide research and logistical support for the Wisconsin release. This support will include rearing sandhill and whooping crane chicks conditioned to follow ultralight aircraft. Patuxent will ship these chicks to the Necedah National Wildlife Refuge in Wisconsin for continued ultralight training.

The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation
The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation is a private, non-profit organization established by Congress in 1984 to benefit the conservation of fish, wildlife, and plants, and the habitat on which they depend. Its goals are conservation education, habitat protection and restoration, and natural resource management. The Foundation meets these goals by creating partnerships between the public and private sectors and strategically investing in conservation projects. The Foundation awards challenge grants in which seed funds awarded are required to be matched with additional funding. The Foundationâs challenge grants not only increase dollars directed to conservation, but also increase organizations dedicated to conservation. The Foundation facilitates cooperation and buy-in from diverse stakeholders by creating partnerships among federal, state, and local governments, corporations, private foundations, individuals, and non-profit organizations.