Whooping-Crane Reintroduction Is Brimming With Symbolism

Photo courtesy of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

After over 60 years of absence from the state, the whooping crane is set to make a comeback in Louisiana.

In cooperation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Geological Survey, and the Louisiana Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries will reintroduce the first group of non-migratory whooping cranes into a wetlands conservation area in the state later this month, according to a statement from the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI).

The whooping crane is highly endangered, with only about 400 individuals remaining in the wild, and the species was on the brink of extinction in the 1940s, the DOI notes.

The federal government has not given up on wildlife conservation, and it has not given up on Louisiana.

The decision by the department to reintroduce the species into the wild — albeit as an experimental, “non-essential” population — is positive news for conservationists and environmentalists alike. But it represents much more than that. With this announcement, the DOI is trumpeting the message loud and clear that Louisiana is a safe environment for wildlife, and that the state is persevering amid the aftermath of the infamous BP oil spill and the damage resulting from Hurricane Katrina.

With the images of oil-slathered birds still branded in my mind, in a way, it’s shocking that the Louisiana wetlands would ever be chosen as the site in which to reintroduce an endangered species.

On the other hand, it makes perfect sense: From the federal government’s perspective, these actions symbolize not only the comeback of the whooping crane, but the comeback of Louisiana from all of the perils it has endured.

I’m not quite convinced that this habitat is safe for any species, and I certainly have not forgiven BP for its egregious negligence and ruthless contamination. But what I will take away from the department’s decision is, nonetheless, uplifting: The federal government has not given up on wildlife conservation, and it has not given up on Louisiana.



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