Date of this Version
We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), propose to reintroduce whooping cranes (Grus Americana) into historic habitat in the eastern United States with the intent to establish a migratory flock that would summer and breed in Wisconsin, and winter in west-central Florida. We propose that this reintroduced population be designated a nonessential experimental population (NEP) according to section 10(j) of the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (Act), as amended. We also announce the availability of the draft environmental assessment for this action. The area proposed for NEP designation includes the States of Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. We are considering including the States of Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Vermont within the eastern United States NEP area.
The objectives of the reintroduction are: to advance recovery of the endangered whooping crane; to further assess the suitability of Wisconsin and west-central Florida as whooping crane habitat; and to evaluate the merit of releasing captive-reared whooping cranes, conditioned for wild release, as a technique for establishing a self-sustaining, migratory population. The only natural wild population of whooping cranes remains vulnerable to extirpation through a natural catastrophe or contaminant spill, due primarily to its limited wintering distribution along the Texas gulf coast. If successful, this action will result in the establishment of an additional self-sustaining population, and contribute towards the recovery of the species. No conflicts are envisioned between the whooping crane’s reintroduction and any existing or anticipated Federal, State, Tribal, local government, or private actions such as agricultural practices, pesticide application, water management, construction, recreation, trapping, or hunting.