Final, Final Thoughts

Operation Migration resigned from the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership (WCEP) on August 17, 2018 and as of December 31, the organization will cease to exist. Since our resignation announcement, we have had no official response from our WCEP partners or even an acknowledgement that our letter was received. We are writing this open communication to our supporters, the Recovery Team members and the WCEP partners to provide a better understanding of the logic behind our resignation and to quell some of the rumors that have arisen.

Our resignation was motivated, in part, by the current Recovery Team plan for the Eastern Migratory Population. Although we are critical of that management strategy, we recognize it was made with good intentions and with the best interest of the birds in mind. Because we do not agree with the plan does not mean we are critical of the planners. Each of you brings unique talents and experience to the cause and we respect the knowledge and integrity of all of the members.  

The decision to release only parent-reared Whooping crane chicks within the EMP was based on low reproduction in and around the Necedah NWR. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s 2015 Vision Document blamed that low prolificacy on the shortcomings of costume-rearing methods; specifically, those employed by Operation Migration. It was hypothesized that “artificiality” of the ultralight-led (UL) method produced inattentive parents and caused the high chick mortality at Necedah. Other than the low productivity numbers, that theory was not supported by research that was shared with the partnership. Ironically, similar costume-rearing strategies appear to be working well in Louisiana.

Rumor one:

Operation Migration wanted to bring back the aircraft-led release method, to keep doing the same thing while expecting different results.

Our position:  OM believes that the UL program was effective however, we eventually agreed that it was no longer required to achieve a self-sustaining EMP. After the cross-imprinting problems at Grays Lake, the Recovery Team originally opposed an eastern reintroduction if it depended solely on chance or wild Sandhill cranes to instill proper migration behavior. The UL method solved that problem making the EMP possible, both biologically and politically, and along the way it presented the conservation of Whooping cranes to a global audience. Now there is a core population migrating appropriately and the UL method has served its function. With sufficient allocations and less restrictive release strategies, we believe the EMP can become self-sustaining. We have petitioned for both of those initiatives but our appeals were rejected.  

The current release strategy is limited by the number of chicks that can be parent-reared in the captive breeding centers and by the number of adult pairs within the EMP that could act as surrogates in the fall when the chicks are released. WCEP is also constrained by the disproportionate chick allocation between the EMP and the Louisiana Non-migratory Population.

Rumor two:

Operation Migration is not thinking of the big picture. It is concerned only with the EMP and not the overall recovery of the species and is therefore opposed to the Louisiana Non-Migratory Population.

Our position:  The Louisiana project has been a brilliant success so far with five fledged chicks in only year eight, and some to record-young parents. The project leaders have integrated Whooping cranes into the local farming culture and made them a source of pride throughout the state. And they did it without creating a complex infrastructure like WCEP. Their work is extremely promising and we can understand why the Recovery Team would want to concentrate resources there. However, too much concentration will compromise all the effort it took to build the EMP to its current size. If egg allocations to the EMP remain imbalanced until 2021, when the current Recovery Team strategy expires, natural attrition will undoubtedly reduce the number of EMP breeders that have also fledged a record five chicks in 2018.

Rumor three:

Operation Migration does not believe the EMP can be successful but the five chicks that fledged in 2018 demonstrate that they are mistaken.

Our position: Seventy percent of the parents of those five fledged chicks were released using the Ultralight method. Those successes are an indication that the costume-reared cranes released many years ago are finally learning how to deal with the challenges at Necedah. Their success has little to do with the current parent-rearing strategy. The results of this latest experiment will only be revealed a few years from now, if ever. With continued low allocations, by that time natural attrition will have decreased the number of adult cranes in the EMP, even among the breeders that produced those five chicks and much of the work WCEP did will have been lost.

It is also worth noting that parent-rearing has been tested before, even with a crane species, but it failed to significantly increase productivity.  Additionally, survival rates are lower among parent-reared juveniles that are released just before their first migration, with no wild experience, and months before they would normally be separated from their parents. Add this to the lower allocations planned until 2021 and the sample size will assuredly be too small for any confidence in the results. Finally, the EMP contains such a diverse mix of release strategies, from wild-hatched chicks to DAR and UL reared cranes, that properly evaluating the potential of a parent-reared strategy within that amalgam — will be inconclusive. If a parent-reared crane survives for five years and breeds with a DAR or a UL adult, how can their success or failure be attributed to the rearing technique of one or the other? 

In summary, there is no indication that parent-rearing has worked in the past, too few birds are being released to make it work now and there is likely no way to evaluate it in the future. Even as a learning opportunity, it has little merit. And while this experiment is underway, attrition will take a severe toll on the population it took WCEP so much time and money to establish. 

In-The-Field Parent Rearing:

In an attempt to more closely replicate the natural process, Operation Migration proposed raising parent-reared chicks in the field rather than at one of the captive centers.  We requested that two to four parent-reared chicks be relocated to White River Marsh in the spring at 40 days of age or younger. They would have been housed in our isolated pens deep in the marsh. A non-breeding pair of captive cranes, not yet reallocated from the Patuxent flock, could have acted as alloparents. The chicks would have been slowly introduced to those adults in divided pens that provided upland foraging areas and wetland roosting sites all within an isolated, top-netted enclosure that was monitored by a live, 24 hour camera. They would have learned to forage for natural foods provided within that compound and been released daily for flight practice. Rather than learning to fly in small pens at the breeding centers, they would fledge naturally and become familiar with the wetlands that would eventually become their summer range. In addition, they would have opportunities to interact with the wild Whooping cranes that use the same habitat.

This proposal would have followed the directives of the Recovery Team and produced parent-reared chicks that were already acclimated to the introduction site. They would have been strong flyers by migration time and maybe even familiar with adult con-specifics that could guide them south. This rearing strategy would have augmented the number of parent-reared cranes released into the EMP and relieved some of the pressure on the captive breeding centers that would otherwise be responsible for raising PR chicks until the fall when they are normally shipped to Wisconsin. We offered to cover the cost of relocation and all the summer expenses including the fall tracking, however, that proposal was rejected. The only justification provided was that reassigning two captive, non-breeding cranes from the Patuxent flock put too much pressure on the team responsible for their distribution. We were also told that it seemed like “too much of a panic” to organize before the season began. That meeting took place in January 2018. Neither the alloparents nor the chicks were needed until that June.

Sandhill cranes as an analogue species:

Although Sandhill cranes generally use different habitat than Whooping cranes, within the EMP, they are regularly seen foraging in upland areas together and roosting in the same wetlands. Because of the cryptic coloration of one species but not the other, they employ different defense strategies but they are both susceptible to the same predators. The similarities are close enough that Sandhill cranes provide a good analogue species to evaluate the potential of habitat for a Whooping crane reintroduction. Ten years after the first indications of low recruitment at Necedah, WCEP was finally allowed to evaluate the fecundity of Sandhill cranes. The 2017 results demonstrate that natural occurring Sandhills had a success rate similar to the reintroduced Whooping cranes. With late spring snow, followed by flooding, 2018 may have been an anomalous breeding season however, forty-seven Sandhill chicks were radio tagged at Necedah but only four survived to fledge. By comparison, at White River Marsh, twenty-two chicks were tagged and eighteen fledged.   

Based on observations and tests with avian predators, the researchers also found that the Whooping cranes at Necedah appear to defend their offspring just as aggressively and persistently as the wild Sandhill cranes.  

These study results suggest that the problem of high chick mortality has more to do with environmental issues at Necedah than it does with rearing strategy. However, when Operation Migration proposed augmenting the number of chicks released into the EMP by raising a cohort of costume-reared Whooping cranes at White River Marsh during the 2018 season, that request was denied by the Recovery Team Coordinator without explanation other than a directive to follow the existing strategy.

Rumor four:

Operation Migration is upset with WCEP and left the partnership as a self-serving display of defiance.

Our position:  When WCEP was established, the partners collectively developed the release strategies and requested approval from the Fish and Wildlife Service and the Recovery Team, which was generally granted. Now the Service has pulled rank and dictates to WCEP, assigning release techniques and limiting allocations, often without providing research to support those directives or allowing team discussions. In Louisiana, costume-rearing is used successfully and it is preferred over parent-rearing however those requests are approved by the Service and the Recovery Team.    

For almost ten years, little was done by the Fish and Wildlife Service to determine the cause of high chick mortality at Necedah while the population hovered around 100 individuals.  Nor has there ever been discussions about possible black fly suppression as promised in the 2015 FWS Vision Document. Instead, our aircraft-led method was repeatedly criticized for being too expensive, despite self-funding, plus we were blamed for the low reproduction at Necedah and the failure of the project.

When the Partnership was limited to the parent-reared technique and lower allocations, Operation Migration opposed those decisions. However, our concerns were not addressed, our offers to raise additional chicks were rejected and no reasonable justification was provided. Throughout this process, our complaint was not with WCEP but with the way the Service was dictating to the Partnership, despite the superior Whooping crane experience of the latter.  Our parting message was intended to support WCEP and to protect the EMP.

For many years, access was restricted to the Necedah Refuge so WCEP was not able to properly investigate the causes of chick mortality or the productivity of Sandhill cranes for comparative analysis. That isolationism began with the unworkable flight restrictions on chick training imposed by the Refuge during our last year at Necedah. Further evidence is the almost complete lack of Whooping crane displays or education materials in the new visitor’s center — or on the Refuge webpage. Despite denials, the visitor’s center was created, in part, as a result of the Whooping crane project yet there remains almost no recognition of one of the most high-profile, wildlife projects ever to occur in the U.S. This is not a campaign for credit of WCEP’s actions on the refuge but an indication of the Service’s regard for the EMP, the respect it has for its partners or the value of their investment. Thousands of people supported the efforts of WCEP to reintroduce Whooping cranes and millions followed the progress. The Necedah Refuge was the center of that project however, recognition for those accomplishments by the Service is conspicuously absent.

In the beginning, WCEP estimated that this reintroduction costs the partners $1.6 million dollars per year. Almost two-thirds of that was contributed by ICF and Operation Migration. Experimenting with the EMP by limiting allocations and mandating restrictive release strategies for the next three years while the population continues to languish, is not good stewardship of WCEP’s investment.

Rumor five:

OM lost a significant portion of its funding and could no longer afford to participate. Now they blame the partnership for their demise:

Our position: Just like any other partner, our funding depended on having a viable role to play within WCEP. At the annual face-to-face WCEP meeting in 2016 when the UL method was ended, the Guidance Team proposed that OM’s new role would be tracking the EMP cranes. We had the expertise, the equipment and the manpower to provide that service, however that role was provided by ICF.

Our proposal to augment releases into the EMP by raising a costume reared cohort was rejected with no rationale other than to follow the Recovery Team’s Egg Allocation directive. Our idea of in-the-field parent-rearing was also vetoed without justification.  The only viable Whooping crane role left for us would have been to assist in monitoring the four parent-reared chicks that were released in the fall of 2018.

For many years Operation Migration presented our social media audience with a supportive and positive version of the decisions made by WCEP. When the Fish and Wildlife Service exercised its authority over the Partnership and publicly blamed Operation Migration for the failure of the EMP, we were forced to defend our methods and our contribution, but we eventually agreed to accept that decision and presented it in a positive light to our supporters. As the success of the EMP became increasingly compromised by restrictive release strategies and limited allocations, we campaigned for more chicks and proposed alternative methods. Those offers were rejected and if history is any guide, we suspect the Sandhill research we funded at Necedah and White River will also be ignored.

In an attempt to be good partners we did not share those conflicts with our audience but there are a hundred stories to tell like our unceremonious ejection from the Necedah Refuge and the purging of all things WCEP. We were told that there was no room on the 44,000-acre refuge for the WCEP donor-recognition board. At the opening of the Whooping crane inspired Necedah visitor’s center, no one from OM was invited.

During the last WCEP face-to-face meeting we were told that the Recovery Team was not responsible for the welfare of one of the WCEP partners. We have heard the same mantra from the Fish and Wildlife Service many times and it is a valid assertion.  But if Operation Migration had taken the same stance when we provided the lion’s share of the funding, labor, and expertise to fulfill the mandate of the Recovery Team and the Fish and Wildlife Service, there wouldn’t be an Eastern Migration Population today.

In the end, we had hoped that our departure would prompt the other partners to question the current management strategies and their implications to the original goal. The EMP has the potential to succeed and the work now being done at Necedah to determine the cause of low productivity and to manage for Whooping cranes is very encouraging.  The five fledged chicks in 2018 are also promising and we hope that milestone prompts the Service to reconsider the viability of the EMP and concentrate more on its potential success.

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32 Comments

  1. Carol Giancola January 10, 2019 6:11 pm

    We live a short time in this world. But what the cranes teach us is eternal.

  2. Stan Howald January 8, 2019 3:32 pm

    Thanks Joe for laying this all out so clearly. Where compromises were possible OM was willing; at the same time I admire your unwillingness to suffer fools gladly. Some bureaucracies seem to be allergic to facts. As for FWS, “Against stupidity the gods themselves contend in vain” ~Friedrich Schiller

  3. Marilyn-Sue Walsh January 5, 2019 10:22 am

    Joe and the entire OM Team,
    It was my honor to be a tiny part of OM as a remote cam driver for a while. It was an experience that I will treasure for the rest of my life with pride that I had helped in my minuscule part helping you all get the word out to the world of the wonderful work you were all doing in creating the EMP. Those of us who followed your efforts on a day to day basis will never forget your part in that effort. We know there is an EMP because of OM! Thank you all and you continue to fly on the wings of the Whooping Cranes of the EMP.

  4. Danny Coles January 2, 2019 4:47 pm

    Thank you all for the memories, Joe, Brooke, Colleen, Heather,
    Richard, JoAnne, and crew. We craniacs will always be looking and listening towards the sky for our Whooping Cranes.

  5. Mary-Lou Gillette January 2, 2019 6:29 am

    Please know that the care and kindness of the good people of Operation Migration to all the Whooping Cranes and the chicks has made such a positive impression on all of us who have followed you on this journey. You have made us all feel like family with your personal blogs that we have so appreciated throughout the years.
    Thank you all so very much for being the kind, wonderful people you are.

  6. Dave Hanson January 1, 2019 11:22 pm

    well said Joe…. I am proud of all the work ,time,and effort you and the whole team put in over the years. I was close enough to the team so I knew all those problems you were being faced with. EVEN MORE DISAPOINTING IS HEARING OF NO RESPONSE FROM YOUR wcep PARTNERS.Guess that pretty well sums up your place in the group…But now the future…. hopefully the birds are learning their life lessons and will carry on.ICF will keep an eye on them.but I will treasure all those memories of watching the cohorts fly by the tower following you ,Brooke,Richard..You did all you could and you will always be my hero.And I am proud to call you a Friend too.Success down the road in whatever you do. Please write that book because you have some fabulous pictures and stories to tell.

  7. Laurie Odlum January 1, 2019 5:10 pm

    Thank you to the entire OM team for your dedication and compassion for our special whoopers. Joe, your information was much needed by all supporters. Keep up the fight.

  8. Babs January 1, 2019 2:31 pm

    Joe:

    Thank you for laying out the timeline for OM and setting things straight, Joe. Very well said.

    We’re all still with you and everyone at OM ..

  9. John Christian January 1, 2019 1:41 pm

    Joe–While I agree with all you have said in your OM goodbye, I must focus on the good that OM has done for conservation overall and for the whooping crane specifically. For example, Indiana bought Goose Ponds and put it in the conservation estate BECAUSE your ultralight whoopers landed there. Thousands of people were mesmerized and sensitized to conservation issues because of OM’s efforts and amazing outreach (thx Heather et al….). Those efforts added to support for conservation that will result in future efforts to protect and restore our worlds natural heritage. Both on the ground and in the voting booth.

    There are beginnings and ends. We can grieve an end…..or celebrate what we have done in between. I strongly choose the latter for OM….and I hope the whole OM Team moves in this direction.

    I agree with everything you said Joe regarding management of the whooping crane project and I am deeply angry at the bad decisions that were made mainly by my agency…that resulted in this day coming. But I have hope for the future and have faith that the birds…….and the OM staff will find a way to succeed. An end usually leads to a new beginning…..and the very personal characteristics of each and every OM Team member will lead to future personal success and happiness in anything that comes next. For you Joe, your family gets to see more of you….and you of them!! And I owe Diana and Alex a MAJOR debt of gratitude for putting up with your absences over the years……..

    As for the 100+ whoopers who are migrating properly in the Eastern Flyway I am reminded of a quote from the movie Jurassic Park:

    “Because the history of evolution is that life escapes all barriers. Life breaks free. Life expands to new territories. Painfully, perhaps even dangerously. But life finds a way.”

    I have no doubt that our whoopers will find a way…….and the OM Team members will find a way……

    Live long and prosper! You all are my heros. Go on to the next life adventure and don’t look back with regret or anger. Look forward with eager anticipation to whats next and the pride of an amazing job well done!

    John Christian
    Retired US Fish and Wildlife Service
    Retired Chairperson, Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership
    Friend and admirer of all past and present members of the OM Team

    • Carol Phillips January 2, 2019 8:32 am

      Thanks John Christian. I worked for some wonderful leaders at the Fish and Wildlife Service and that certainly includes you. Thanks for your support of Operation Migration. A lot of volunteers at the St. Marks NWR fully supported this organization and were sorry with the way this turned out.
      Carol Phillips

    • Joseph Duff January 2, 2019 9:32 am

      John Christian was the Assistant Regional Director of Region 3, USFWS and in charge of Migratory Birds when OM first attended the annual Whooping Crane Recovery Team meetings back in the late 1990s. We were two foreigners from Canada. One was a sculptor and the other a photographer. Neither of us had academic credentials that related to anything like avian biology but John saw the logic in our simple plan and he championed this project. He coordinated the long list of permits needed, enacted provisions within the Endangered Species Act and helped to organize the first iteration of WCEP. Together with Tom Stehn, USFWS Whooping Crane Coordinator (retired) they worked tirelessly to pave he way and build the multi-jurisdictional infrastructure needed to get the EMP off the ground. George Archibald, Co-founder of the International Crane Foundation, was also part of that dream team of scientists and administrators that made this project possible. Without the hard work of many people this project would not have been possible and the EMP would not exists but these three above all were the champions of Whooping cranes. Thank you John for your guidance your diplomacy, your leadership and your friendship.

  10. Esie Sealander January 1, 2019 8:59 am

    As the song said: “Let there be peace on Earth and let it begin with me” .

  11. Susanne Shrader January 1, 2019 6:34 am

    Joe, that was a well-said eulogy, blaming no one in particular but lamenting the end of a great partnership. I can’t believe that there was no response from the other members about the disbanding. Operation migration will forever soar in our hearts

  12. Jeannie Ulrich December 31, 2018 8:01 pm

    Joe, I thank you for your honest explanation of the journey that Operation Migration has traveled as you all fought for the best interest of the Whooping Crane. Like many others, I too am saddened by the end of Operation Migration. I have learned so much from you over the years. I could listen to your stories for hours. I do so hope that I get that chance again! Thank you for all you have done. I am in awe of your seemingly tireless work.

    I thank you and all of the Operation Migration team for your dedication to the Whoopers and the desire to share the experience with all of us Chatters and Craniacs. I have been places that I would never have gone had I not found OM and I have had the joy of seeing things I would not have seen. That includes seeing a pair of our UL birds in flight and hearing their unison calls this past September during Cranefest. Thank you all.

    I am praying for the rapid return of those in our government who respect our environment and those species with which we share our world and value science over money.

    I will miss you all. I wish you the best.

  13. Jean Prigelmiller December 31, 2018 7:29 pm

    Well said. Thank you Joe for writing to the record. It is sad that those with hands on experience are often ignored by the political/ managerial decision makers. OM’s contributions scientifically and logistically are revered by many who saw the hope, wisdom, and caring of the OM team. From the time I first learned of OM I have said you were master teachers and that is echoed here by many. May God bless all of OM and the magnificent Whooping Cranes you have helped survive.

  14. Catherine Wohlfeil December 31, 2018 5:51 pm

    No fight worth giving that much of your life for can be ever lost. The people of Operation Migration, and in this I include the supporters, the school children who followed your flights and learned about the future of our planet and its sustainability, those people who across this mighty country looked up one morning and saw your ultralight, as if by magic, leading an array of white angelic birds south in hopes of a new destiny. Today, we thank you for the courageous fights you have fought on behalf of “our birds”, and we look to you, and to all those who learned and were inspired by you, for a new future destiny. A home for our hopes, our dreams, our beliefs, and our prayers, that yes, this can be real.

    To the People of FWS — The very hope of a future for this species is as outlined above by Mr. Duff. The provision of alloparents in a setting such as White River Marsh, a setting which is conducive to reproduction, with sufficient on-site trained staff to monitor both development, predator status, and minimize intrusion of environmental hazards is the key to the survival of this species. Many decisions are made in the halls of power, but this one will forever be imprinted on your hearts. Can you, in good conscience, walk away from this plan, knowing that the decision you made today, will leave us, the people, with skies darkened of this beautiful bird? Can you read the biographies of these birds on this website and not be moved. These are individuals too. Can you walk away from what you know will save this species? May I ask, when there was “no room on the 44,000-acre refuge for the WCEP donor-recognition board”, was there really, “no room at the inn”? Think about it.

    And to all of the members of Operation Migration, if I may, I repeat the blessing —
    As we come to the end of this noble endeavor, may we become aware of the courage it sometimes requires to take that first step. The power to envision the future, or what could be the future, is derived not from within ourselves but from our dreams; not from our knowledge of the outcome sought, but from our faith and our resilience in the face of storms, cold windy mornings, rain and snow that never ends, and the inevitable flat tire on the highway of life. Our “power” comes from believing in someone or something greater than ourselves and holding fast to that heartfelt course that we knew was ours on that first morning when we saw the birds rush out in eager anticipation of … flight.

    May your endeavors grow and from them be born things greater than you dreamed possible when you took that first step.

    And may the Almighty guide the birds on their life path to follow the horizon of hope, the anticipation of health, and the depth of the grand understanding that comes from long life.

    Lean into the wind little ones, spread your wings, and fly. Follow that invisible bird that leads you into the sunrise of a new dawn. Fly….

  15. Anne December 31, 2018 5:39 pm

    Thank you all OM for all you have done! What an amazing journey!

  16. Fran Beardsley December 31, 2018 5:29 pm

    Well said. Thank you, thank you.

  17. Barbara An December 31, 2018 5:16 pm

    Joe, and Crew,

    Thank you for all the work you have done with remarkable results. Its sad that the human race, and only the human race, suffers from the affliction called EGO. This nasty affliction affects everything on this wonderful Earth. It is the reason for wars, horrible people, fauna and flora destruction, and just about anything that is in jeopardy. It prevents joy and happiness for so many people and creatures.

    It prevents other living beings whether they be animal or plant life, from thriving.

    I hope that our dear Whooping Cranes are able the survive despite people, namely people in the government, who happen to have some of biggest Egos.

    Thank you for the clear explanation of what really has been happening behind the scenes. It really doesn’t surprise me.

    When you regroup, and look for support, count me in.

  18. Kerry Brookman December 31, 2018 4:03 pm

    Thank you thank you thank you to OM staff, board, and supporters for giving us these marvelous cranes and years of breathtaking suspense and entertainment bringing them to the skies. OM has been extraordinary in its talents, goals, and process. It is irreplaceable. Best wishes to all.

  19. Michele Treadway December 31, 2018 12:42 pm

    Thank you, OM. Through it all OM has given me hope of bringing back a species I thought was already extinct. I wish your work not to end. You leave an undying spark in my heart.
    Thank you.
    .

  20. Nancy Drew December 31, 2018 12:35 pm

    Thank you for this explanation. I am saddened by the end of Operation Migration. I have followed you since 2001 and am proud that 3 of my qiults helped with some funding early on.
    I wish you all the best.

  21. Aletta Houser Hargis December 31, 2018 11:54 am

    I’ve had the great honor of watching the Birds following the lead Glider & it brought tears to my eyes. This is sad for many supporters.

    http://operationmigtation.org

  22. Judy Lenoir, Master Naturalist December 31, 2018 11:14 am

    This seems to be another example of the efficacy, or lack of, the FWS.
    Thank you for all you have accomplished!

  23. Karen Anne Kolling December 31, 2018 11:12 am

    Thank you to everyone in Operation Migration and the supporters. It must have been very frustrating and saddening trying to work with the no-nothings and realizing how much damage they have done and are doing to the cause of the whoopers.

  24. Richard P Brooks December 31, 2018 11:09 am

    Thank you and well said Joe Duff. What every person at OM has done will forever stand as an example of altruism on behalf of the creatures that humans share this planet but have nearly or totally exterminated. I would also like to thank Brooke and Colleen who were so warm and generous with their time when I visited White River Marsh last November. I wish they had also had some last comments but their work speaks for them. Many will continue to fight for the EMP, we wish you were here to lead us. THANK YOU TO ALL WHO WERE INVOLVED WITH OPERATION MIGRATION.

  25. Faye Pittman December 31, 2018 11:01 am

    For the first time since 2003, when I first discovered Operation Migration and began following their valiant efforts to return the magnificent Whooping Crane to the Eastern skies of the United States of America and became a Craniac, I feel HOPELESS. ‘Tis a travesty indeed that the ‘powers that be’ are TOTALLY CLUELESS AND STUPID and cannot see past their pointy little noses, (and indeed are cutting off their nose to spite their face) that Operation Migration SUCCEEDED when and where no-one else could!!!!! Without Operation Migration there would be no Whooping Cranes in the Eastern USA skies, whereas we now have at least one-hundred (hopefully that is still a viable number) beautiful birds existing!!!!!

    If by some miracle the ‘powers that be’ come to their senses and realize their humongous mistake, and allow Operation Migration to continue their successful vision for future Eastern Migrating Whooping Cranes, please count me as a supporter of Operation Migration and crew. Otherwise I cannot condone or support STUPID!!!!!

    THANK YOU Bill, Joe, Brooke, Richard, Heather, Chris, JoAnne, Colleen, Liz, Beverly, all the Interns, crane handlers, top crew, volunteers, Craniacs, supporters, and on and on to infinity . . . . Forever grateful

  26. Cheryl Murphy December 31, 2018 10:49 am

    A thoughtful and thorough summary, Joe. A very sad compilation of bureaucratic mistakes that clearly points out, that without the valid and important work of Operation Migration, the Whooping Crane population will most assuredly be effected in a negative way. My wish is that OM’s non-political voice would have been heard. Truly incomprehensible. Again, thank you and your team for your care and dedication. This is a very sad time.

  27. Carol Phillips December 31, 2018 10:11 am

    Black flies were to blame for whoopers leaving nests at Necedah NWR. It was a failure by to use that refuge for as many years as the FWS did. That is my opinion.

  28. Diana Hanson December 31, 2018 10:02 am

    Thank you OM for all you have done. I will be forever imprinted by your amazing & I believe successful work. Warmest regards and wishes for a more hopeful 2019 in all you do.

  29. Agneta Sand December 31, 2018 9:57 am

    Well said, Joe Duff ! ! !

  30. Elizabeth Dobson December 31, 2018 9:28 am

    Joe for many years my 3rd grade students in northern Vermont followed your work and learned more about the species, dedication to a passion, geography outside of their VT world, math skills, reading, technology, compassion, successes, losses…. the list could on. We were able to secure our school’s 1st set of 25 laptops ever based on the students submission of a grant around their learning with you and the team. It left a huge hole in our hearts when it ended but your work offered life long lessons to many little 8 and 9 year children in my classroom! Thank you for your compassion and efforts with the whooping cranes!