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November 29, 1999

For those of you that have followed our migration adventure you may remember the study we did in 1998. To see if we could keep birds wild, we first taught them to follow our aircraft and then transported them to the Tom Yawkey Wildlife Center in South Carolina for the winter. In order to give an added advantage we led them by ultralight the last 100 kilometers from Green Sea, SC to their wintering grounds. During that two-hour trip, we had two Sandhill cranes drop out of the flight. Deke Clark, who was flying the chase plane at the time, was able to retrieve one bird and return it to the formation but the other disappeared. After landing, we retraced our steps and used a radio-tracking device in an attempt to find the errant crane. We did get a strong signal but before the team managed to capture the bird, it was flushed by a pack of dogs and never seen again. We presumed this bird was dead until we had a call today from Steven Nesbitt (Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission). He reported that the body of crane number 365 was collected from a National Forest east of Ocala, Florida. The cause of death is unknown as yet but we can assume that once it left the protection of our flock it fell in with the wild migrants that use that corridor in the spring and fall. On the bright side it is evident that this bird did not associate with people during the year it spent on its own. I only wish we knew where it spent the summer.

November 15, 1999

Little did we know.

The concept of flying with birds began with Bill Lishman’s first flight with geese over ten years ago. Little did we know that eventually we would be asked to help save Whooping cranes. What initially appealed to our sense of adventure, has grown into an organization that is poised to safeguard the icon of endangered species. Little did we realize, that armed with artistic backgrounds, we would have to evolve into scientists and face the daunting task of developing protocols, obtaining permits and adapting costume rearing techniques. From sculptor and photographer to fundraisers and public speakers.... as the momentum builds, we are forced to wear many hats. Unfortunately, some don’t fit as well as others but with help, we persist.

Since its inception in 1994, Operation Migration has been a Canadian registered, non-profit charity. As the project expanded and became more international in scope the need for equal status in the U.S. became apparent. So we sent for the forms and sat down to fill out the application. After hours of legalese and references to statutes beyond my comprehension, I realized that this hat came down over my ears. As in the past we turned again for assistance from supporters with vision. David Maryles of Weil Gotshall & Manges in New York saw the good we were trying to accomplish and with humbling expertise he whizzed through the forms and presented the IRS with our request. He has worked tirelessly for over 13 months to answer questions and suggest solutions. He set up Operation Migration - USA Inc. and thanks to him we now have our 501( c) 3 status! allowing us to pursue American corporate sponsors and private donors.

Saving Whooping cranes is going to require the assistance of many people like David and his efforts have opened up a whole new area with which we have little experience. If anyone out there has a working knowledge of U.S. philanthropic organizations and is willing to donate their time we could use your help. The ladder of recovery is wobbly and tall. David has pushed us up another rung and now we need help with the next step.

November 10, 1999

The International Crane Foundation is a private research and propagation center founded by Dr. George Archibald and Dr. Ron Sauey (L.). It is nestled in the rolling hills of central Wisconsin but its conservation network is on a global scale. It is the only center that maintains breeding pairs of all the world’s fifteen species of cranes. Their dedicated team of professionals work with domestic and foreign governments to save habitat and change the attitudes of the local cultures. Their head office is located near Baraboo and features an education center where visitors can witness, up close, these magnificent birds in all their glory.

ICF also hosted the recent Whooping Crane Recovery Team meeting where decisions were made that affect the future of Operation Migration and the eastern introduction of Whooping cranes. The meeting was attended by all ten Recovery Team members, representatives from the short listed introduction sites, the U.S. Air National Guard, The Wisconsin Dept of Natural Resources, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Operation Migration. Including other interested parties the attendants numbered over fifty. First on the agenda was the selection of an introductions site. Three federally controlled areas; Horicon NWR, Necedah NWR (and surrounding area jointly referred to as Central Wisconsin) and Crex Meadow NWR have been evaluated over the past years and public hearings were held to gauge local support. Dr. John Canon tabled his final report on the site selection and all were asked to comment during the open portion of the meeting. Most noteworthy was the general support for the introduction on all levels. In a closed-door session the Recovery Team made their recommendations and Tom Stehn, USFWS and coordinator of the Team chaired the meeting and reported the following:

The WCRT recommends that the first release should occur in Central Wisconsin contingent upon satisfactory results from:

1. Assessment of contaminant levels that a summering Whooping crane population would be exposed to.

2. Assessment of aircraft over flights that could affect a breeding Whooping crane population and reintroduction efforts using ultralight aircraft. And...

3. A Sandhill crane trial migration from Central Wisconsin to Florida by Ultralight.

When the migratory pathway and the amount of dispersal of the new population assure that no significant mixing will occur with the only existing Wood Buffalo/Aransas population, then additional releases will be considered to include other sites in Wisconsin, Seney NWR in Michigan, the Interlake region of Manitoba, and a wintering population at Marsh Island NWR in Louisiana.

In the coming months, a large planning effort will take place to incorporate all aspects of the proposed reintroduction, including fund raising. Many contacts will have to be made with all the states involved and work will begin to write the required environmental documents. This can hopefully be completed in time to fly the first cohort of Whooping cranes south in the fall of 2001.

Considering the scale of an introduction of this type the Recovery Team made significant strides towards safeguarding Whooping cranes.

A special thank you to Terry and Mary Kohler, long-term supporters of ICF, who also attended the meeting and added an extra element. Terry brought along two of his aircraft; a Cessna Citation (10 passenger corporate jet) and a Cessna Caravan (9 passenger turbo-prop bush plane) and flew the Recovery Team and others over the proposed introduction sites for first hand look.

September 29, 1999

As the Whooping Crane Recovery Team moved closer to establishing an endangered species, Operation Migration began an introduction of another sort. Joseph and Diana Duff would like to announce the latest member of the OM team. Alexandra Mary (9lbs, 7.4 oz.) was born at 12:52 PM on Friday September 24th You will note from the name we selected that Diana did not agree with my suggestion. The recovery plan not withstanding, she insisted that "Whooper" was not appropriate. Thank you to all who wished us well.

Joe Duff

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