Tuesday, October 26, 2021

What's Happening in Wisconsin?

A new bill has been proposed in the Wisconsin Statehouse: SB-620. It would expand hunting for a range of wildlife, including sandhill cranes (Antigone canadensis).


I've seen sandhill cranes in Yellowstone National Park and Seedskadee National Wildlife Refuge in Wyoming. Notice something in common between these locations? Federally protected land. The only other place I've seen these North American cranes is flying over the Rock River at sunset in Wisconsin.

whooping crane
Baraboo, Wisconsin, is home to the International Crane Foundation, an organization that began with two young biologists determined to save the whooping crane (Grus americana) from extinction. In 1950, there were only 34 individuals in the wild. The total whooping crane population in 2021 numbers just over 800. (There were more students in my high school graduating class.) 

The International Crane Foundation has become a leader in crane conservation around the world. They not only breed these magnificent birds, but the organization mitigates conflict between people and the fifteen species of cranes around the world.

black-necked crane
Now conflict has come to their front door. Wisconsin is one of the southern-most breeding areas for sandhill cranes. Some breed as far north as Alaska and Eastern Siberia, most breed in Canada. Seen across North America, sandhill cranes migrate south as far as Texas and Mexico in the winter. More about sandhill cranes. State Bill 620 would have people believe that shooting sandhill cranes is the only way to reduce their impact on some corn crops in Wisconsin. But there are other non-lethal options that ICF has implemented in other parts of the world. ICF's statement on SB-620

This bill isn't about cranes. It isn't about science or practical ways to resolve issues between farmers and wildlife. This is about a small group of people who want to force their privilege to do whatever they want despite the costs or consequences. It's about politics, not corn or cranes.

blue cranes

Cranes need a voice. We have developed their habitat, drained their wetlands. If farmers in third world countries can find ways to share the land with cranes, surely we can too. 

Cranes mate for life. They are lucky if they raise a chick to adulthood every third year. What can seem like a large population today can be quickly decimated. Support conservation that works. Raise your voice with the International Crane Foundation.

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Protecting the Urban Forest

Anna's hummingbird
A week ago the ironwood tree across the street burst into bloom. It was one of the few ironwood and eucalyptus trees in the neighborhood that was doing well. Most have been severely impacted by CA's continuing drought.

The blooming tree was an oasis for migrating birds - Hutton's vireo, Anna's hummingbirds, yellow-rumped warblers, Townsend's warbler, a black-throated gray warbler, and ruby-crowned kinglets. All of these species were documented in a single morning last week. The resident Allen's hummingbirds were also imbibing of the flower nectar. This single tree was providing natural food and sanctuary.

This morning the ironwood and its neighboring red gum eucalyptus are savagely reduced to skeletons. The red gum has been poorly trimmed before. Because of it, its shortened limbs have been forced to send out new growth that is unstable and tends to break off in winds. To reduce the dropped limbs the home owner made the same mistake again, repeating a cycle of mismanaged trimming that will cause this tree to regrow fragile limbs and result in shortening its life. Each chopped off limb is now open to insect and fungal invaders. It is a cycle I have witnessed throughout my neighborhood for twenty-five years.

Twenty-five years ago our neighborhood was renowned for its tree-lined streets. We were typically cooler than other neighborhoods. Today 90% of our large trees are gone and Woodland Hills frequently records the hottest temperatures in the west San Fernando Valley.


In the remnant of a single blooming branch a small Hutton's vireo sat bewildered. (circled in green)


How do we stop deforesting our urban forest? How do we teach people the value of their trees and the shade they provide? What steps can we take to plant trees that both provide habitat for native wildlife and are compatible with urban needs?

Who speaks for the urban forest?