Whooping Cranes’ Battle for Survival Continues:
Part One: Dispute Over Water Rights
by Kathleen Kaska
In 1942, with only fifteen whooping cranes left in the wild, the key to saving the species from extinction was locating their only remaining nesting site—somewhere in the Canadian wilderness—protecting it before it was too late. It took Audubon ornithologist Robert Porter Allen and his team almost nine years to accomplish the task. Since then, the population of North America’s tallest bird has grown to almost six hundred. Still on the endangered species list, however, the whoopers face new obstacles.
Texas is currently experiencing the worse drought in more than sixty years, which has led to legal battle over these water rights and usage. The Texas Project, an alliance of coastal citizens, organizations, and businesses, has sued the Texas Commission of Environment Quality (TCEQ) over mismanagement of water distribution in the area, claiming in inadequate water flow into the coastal refuge. On March 11, U.S. District Judge Janis Graham Jack ruled in favor of the Texas Project, holding that the TCEQ violated the Endangered Species Act by its mismanaging of water usage, leading to the death of twenty-three whooping cranes. This ruling prevents the TCEQ from issuing new water permits until it can show that such permits will not affect the well-being of this endangered species.
For now, the situation is uncertain. In the meantime, everyone is looking to the skies for much-needed rain. When the whoopers return to the Texas coast next fall, it will hopefully be to a rich, vibrant habitat.
To learn about past efforts in saving the whooping crane from extinction, read my book, The Man Who Saved the Whooping Crane: The Robert Porter Allen Story. This book has been nominated for the George Perkins Marsh Award for environmental history and the Washington State Book Award for history/general nonfiction.
Kathleen Kaska, writer of fiction, nonfiction, travel articles, and stage plays, has just completed her most challenging endeavor. The Man Who Saved the Whooping Crane: The Robert Porter Allen Story, a true story set in the 1940s and 50s, is about Audubon ornithologist Robert Porter Allen whose mission was to journey into the Canadian wilderness to save the last flock of whooping cranes before encroaching development wiped out their nesting site, sending them into extinction.
Kathleen also writes the Sydney Lockhart Mystery series and the Classic Triviography Mystery series published by LL-Publications. She also keeps a blog, Kathleen Kaska Writes on Birds and Books.