“Discovering Wetlands” Conference in Lacrosse

Discovering Wetlands is the theme of the Wisconsin Wetlands Association 2014 conference underway in  La Crosse this week. Wetlands experts and enthusiasts from across the region are gathering for this annual event which includes presentations, working groups, field trips, and a banquet.  The WWA says that a growing regional collaboration for protecting and conserving Wisconsin’s wetlands has resulted from nearly two decades of the annual conferences.

John O. Anfinson of the National Park Service is giving the keynote address, “Trapped by HIstory:  The Past and Future of the Upper Mississippi River.  The presentations include Wetlands Restoration, Wetland Wildlife, a Mining Discussion, Native Wetland Flora, Wetland Mitigation, and Invasive Species.

In the Kettle Moraine, Northern Unit.

In the Kettle Moraine, Northern Unit.

The Wisconsin Wetlands Association was established in 1969 to preserve and restore wetlands – essential as pollution filters, and for flood control, and biodiversity.  The are “ecological wonderlands,” says the WWA web page devoted to answering the question “Why Save Wetlands?”

The association’s 1450 members include scientists, educators, conservationists, hunters, and concerned citizens. Among the many, many projects and activities this organization is involved with, you might check out Wisconsin’s Wetland Gems – a list of 100 special locations.  They are listed and mapped on the website, and this detail-rich project is also available as a book.

International Crane Foundation Seeks Help to End Whooping Crane Shootings

An UPDATE:  The Badger and the Whooping Crane is posting the video below as an update to yesterday’s post about the Louisiana whooping crane shootings. The video is from the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.  It came today in an email from ICF’s Joan Garland, decrying the shootings and “the blatant disregard for the Endangered Species Act.”

International Crane Foundation Seeks Help to End Whooping Crane Shootings

The International Crane Foundation has added its prestigious voice to the call for apprehension of those killing endangered whooping cranes, and strong penalties for those found guilty. In a letter to all ICF supporters, ICF President Dr. Rich Beilfuss, referenced the most recent shootings of whooping cranes – 2 shot in Kentucky late last year, and 2 discovered in Louisiana, February 7th. “In the past five years, at least 16 whooping cranes have been shot,” Dr. Beilfuss writes, adding that the shootings have happened in all three of the whooping crane populations that exist in the wild.

Dr. Beilfuss urged the friends and members of ICF to get involved by contacting federal officials to ask for stronger sentencing that would recognize “the significance of these crimes.” He cited approvingly, one South Dakota  case in which the perpetrator was sentenced to pay an $85,000 fine, and serve two years on probation, and suggested it be used as “a model that should be considered in all Whooping Crane shooting cases to maximize deterrence.”

The Louisiana shootings have occurred since The Badger and the Whooping Crane published “It’s a Federal Crime to Kill a Whooping Crane” about the Kentucky shootings and eight others. Money was immediately offered for information leading to arrests in the Louisiana case, – $1,000, at first, and within days the reward had grown to $15,000 – the same amount that is being offered for information in the Kentucky cases.  The people who devote their lives to issues involving conservation, wildlife, and in particular, the endangered whooping crane have all been eager to contribute to these reward funds. All earnestly hope for arrests and sentencing of those responsible.

One injured crane survives the most recent Louisiana shooting.  The Advocate of Baton Rouge, LA, reports on the lengthy surgery the bird has undergone, and the long rehabilitation ahead.

Photo from Wikimedia Commons

Photo from Wikimedia Commons

Recycled Plastics and Wilderness Preservation

Understanding that wilderness preservation is one of the key ingredients in the recipe to preserve endangered species like the whooping crane, we should all look for small, everyday ways we can help. So, in hopes that a lot of small actions from many will pay big dividends for all – including the wild things – I try to “reduce, reuse, and recycle” more and more – particularly plastics.

Recycling can be a win-win in a number of ways. In addition to diverting millions of tons of materials from the nation’s landfills each year, making new products from recycled materials saves money in the long run, and create jobs in the collection of recyclables, in materials recovery facilities, and in the reprocessing of the old materials into usable new stock for industry. In the case of plastics, for instance, various product life-cycle assessments have shown that new products from recycled plastic yield real savings of energy, water, and other natural resources when compared to the cost of making the same product from virgin plastic.

Last week I took a grocery bag full of used polypropylene containers to Whole Foods market in Milwaukee for recycling. Polypropylene? That’s the plastic designated #5 , or “PP” on the bottom of countless little plastic food containers everyone has in their refrigerator.

Ingredients for a Smoothie-Party, kept fresh in food storage containers made of 100 percent recycled plastic. (Photo courtesy of Preserve Products)

Ingredients for a Smoothie-Party, kept fresh in food storage containers made of 100 percent recycled plastic. (Photo courtesy of Preserve Products)

And why take them to Whole Foods? Most municipal curbside collections do not, as of now, recycle #5.  Although that may be changing, in most communities, if you throw #5 plastic in with your #1’s and #2’s – the plastics that are universally recycled – there’s a good chance the #5’s will be land filled with the trash. But what hooked me on saving #5’s and taking them to Whole Foods whenever I have a reason to be in Milwaukee, is that the organic food retailer is collecting them for Preserve Products of Waltham, MA – a company that will recycle them into new consumer products.

Preserve Products (which is where the link above, “life-cycle assessments,” leads)  has been making things out of 100% recycled #5 plastic since 1996. They started humbly with a toothbrush handle – and have expanded to disposable razors, and a variety of kitchen tools, and tabletop collections. From the beginning, they promised to reclaim your Preserve Products and recycle them again into new products of 100% recycled plastic, made here, in the United States. In 2008 they enlarged on that promise by partnering with 250 Whole Foods Markets across the country, to collect all the #5 plastic – not just their own products – that you can give them. They call this their Gimme 5 program, and you’ll find a Gimme 5 collection bin in most Whole Food stores.

I’ve admired this program since I first learned of it a few years ago, but it’s been a while since I checked into Preserve’s  informative website to see what new products are offered, and check on how much plastic they’ve been able to recycle. I found an answer at the Preserve webpage describing their partnership with Whole Foods: “250 tons of yogurt cups, butter, and cottage cheese containers and other #5 plastic packages . .” I received additional information from a company spokeswoman when I dialed the customer service number. She assured me that the Gimme 5 partnership has been all theyd hoped for and then some. “We get more materials than we can use,” she said, “and we make sure the surplus goes to other companies offering USA-made consumer products; we remain committed to making sure the plastic is recycled and used by companies making things here in this country.”

What other consumer products are being made with recycled polypropylene, I wondered. A quick internet search revealed these interesting examples (scroll down to see all 20), offered by a company calling itself JAWS, International. The acronym stands for Just Add Water System. The company sells small plastic cartridges filled with a concentrate of household cleaner chemicals, to which the consumer adds their own water. The JAWS story includes the suggestion that you recycle their cartridges, though they are not in the business of collecting it themselves.

It’s a Federal Crime to Kill a Whooping Crane

In the time I’ve been following what I sometimes call “the whooping crane drama,” 8 of these beautiful birds that belonged to our Eastern Migratory Population have died by gunfire. Though most of these deaths are unsolved cases, both the members of the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership and those in the law enforcement community who have investigated the deaths, believe these are not accidental shootings, but wanton, senseless killings. Now two more such killings have been reported – so 10 whooping cranes in the EMP, which nests here in Wisconsin, have been destroyed this way.

The bad news arrived mid-January in the form of a press release from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, and it spread fast, re-broadcast by the International Crane Foundation, WCEP, Operation Migration, and other whooping crane partners. An injured crane had been discovered, and ultimately euthanized in late November, in Hopkins County, KY, and the body of its mate was recovered in Muhlenberg County, KY, on December 13, 2013. The Louisville Courier Journal reported that wildlife authorities had delayed announcing these killings “while they gathered evidence” and put together a reward package in order to ask for the public’s help in finding the perpetrators.

A Broadly-supported Effort to Encourage Public Input on Crane Killings

Is there anything that is more frustrating and unnerving to those who devote a good part of their lives to  preserving the endangered whooping crane? I don’t think so. The reward money, for anyone who gives information that directly leads to arrest and conviction of those responsible,  has steadily grown from  $7,200 to over $15,000. All kinds of groups are contributing to it, and in addition to those directly involved, these include the Kentucky Fish & Wildlife Foundation, the Kentucky chapter of the Nature Conservancy, Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens, Friends of Wheeler NWR, and more.

The killings are violations of both the Endangered Species Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.  The International Crane Foundation and Operation Migration are both urging their friends and followers to share widely the following “Help Us Save the Whooping Crane” public service announcement:

Eight More Whooping Crane Shootings

Here’s a brief rundown of what is known about the deaths-by-gunfire suffered by eight other birds in the Eastern Migratory Population of whooping cranes:

At the end of 2010 – December 30th, in Georgia – the bodies of 3 young “Direct Autumn Release” cranes were found in Calhoun County. The cranes were on their first migration from Wisconsin, learning the way from older birds.

Early in 2011, two whooping cranes believed to have been shot were found at Weiss Lake in Alabama. The body of one was discovered on January 28th, and the second crane’s body was recovered in mid-February less than a quarter-mile away from where the first was found.

In the spring of 2011 a juvenile shooter and the adult that accompanied him were charged and sentenced in Indiana for the 2009 killing of an EMP crane. USFWS officials welcomed the closure to this case, but they got little else. The unusually light sentence imposed on the shooter in the Vermillion County, Indiana court left anger and disbelief among so many in the wildlife conservation community.

The year ended with the bad news of a second whooping crane shot in Indiana; its remains were discovered near Crothersville, Dec. 30th, 2011.  And while the new year was still fresh – on January 21, 2012 – someone in the Indiana DNR received a tip from a citizen that led to the discovery of a third whooping crane shot in Indiana.

Some justice, at least, seemed to prevail when two shooters were held responsible for the third Indiana whooping crane killing. Jason McCarter and John Burke, each of Knox County, were sentenced to 3 years of probation, 120 hours of community service at a state wildlife area, and a donation of $5,000 to the International Crane Foundation.

There have been some illegal shootings of whooping cranes outside the Eastern Migratory Population as well, and a recent case in South Dakota earned a 26-year-old shooter a truly stiff sentence: the requirement that he make $85,000 in restitution payments and serve 2 years of probation with no hunting or trapping rights. This news cheered wildlife conservationists and raised hopes that the message will spread to other potential shooters:  it really IS a crime to take the life of these birds.

Photo from Wikimedia Commons

Photo from Wikimedia Commons