Songbird Protection Coalition

Michigan Songbird Protection Coalition

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                            

October 10, 2017

Michigan Songbird Protection Coalition will take part in 23rd annual CraneFest in Bellevue, celebrating sandhill cranes

The Michigan Songbird Protection Coalition will join thousands of birding enthusiasts on October 14-15 in Bellevue, Michigan for the 23rd annual CraneFest, a festival celebrating a beloved bird species, the sandhill crane.

CraneFest is particularly relevant and timely this year, since a Michigan lawmaker has introduced a state House resolution, HR 154, calling for a recreational hunting season on sandhill cranes. Rep. Jim Lower (R-Cedar Lake) introduced the resolution on September 20, and several members of the Michigan Songbird Protection Coalition testified against the resolution during an October 4 hearing in the House Natural Resources Committee. A second hearing and vote on HR 154 is likely to be held at 9 a.m. on Oct. 11 in Room 326 of the House Office Building in Lansing.

The Songbird Protection Coalition booth at CraneFest will feature information about protecting these majestic birds, which were nearly wiped out in Michigan in the last century due to hunting and agricultural conversion of wetland habitats. Festival-goers will be invited to share their stories and thoughts about sandhill cranes at the booth, which will be posted to the coalition’s Facebook page.

“Sandhill cranes are a vulnerable and recovering species,” said Songbird Protection Coalition director Julie Baker. “CraneFest is a unique opportunity for bird lovers and other wildlife advocate to show their support for these magnificent birds we are so fortunate to still have.”

Julie Baker will be at the CraneFest booth to share information with the media and the public about sandhill cranes and mourning doves, their vital role in the Michigan ecosystem, their significant economic value to the state’s ever-growing wildlife watching industry, and why the state must maintain non-game, protected status for these peaceful, much-loved bird species.

Last June, the lobby group Michigan United Conservation Clubs called for state officials to open recreational hunts on sandhill cranes and mourning doves, despite more than a century of legal protection for these species and a 2006 statewide citizen vote that overwhelmingly rejected the target shooting of Michigan’s mourning doves.

“There is no scientific or wildlife management justification for opening a recreational hunting season on Michigan’s sandhill cranes,” said Baker. “Proven effective, non-lethal mitigation measures already exist to protect affected farms near prime wetland habitats where cranes are active, and farmers can also obtain lethal control permits if necessary. However, a recent USDA report acknowledged a lack of evidence that hunting or other lethal means of removing cranes actually reduces temporary conflicts in the spring.”

A recently released report by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service shows a remarkable increase in the number of Americans who choose to watch, photograph and document wildlife. Even more striking was the amount of money wildlife watchers in the United States spend — $75.9 billion in 2016, nearly three times what hunters in the U.S. spent that year.

“Our policy makers should recognize and respect the tremendous economic value generated by birdwatchers and other non-consumptive wildlife enthusiasts,” said Baker. “They should also respect our concerns and our fair public vote to keep traditional protections in place for our backyard songbirds and other non-game wildlife in Michigan.”

Sandhill cranes are often described as majestic in flight. Their trumpeting call is considered one of the most unique and ancient sounds in nature. They are so beloved by “birders” and other nature enthusiasts that CraneFest was created 23 years ago to celebrate the species.

The 23rd annual CraneFest will be held at the Kiwanis Youth Area in Bellevue, overlooking Big Marsh Lake, at 22300 15 Mile Road, Bellevue, MI, 49021. The event is sponsored by Michigan Audubon in partnership with the Kiwanis Club of Battle Creek, and was created to raise awareness and appreciation of Michigan’s natural heritage and to support the ongoing educational and conservation efforts of Michigan Audubon Society and its Bernard W. Baker Bird Sanctuary.

Events will run from noon to dusk and will feature artists, vendors, food, educational activities, and information from environmental and conservation-related groups like the Songbird Protection Coalition. The main attraction of the event is the “fly-in” of hundreds of sandhill cranes, which typically begins slowly throughout the afternoon.

The best viewing of cranes is between 5 p.m. and dusk. Admission to CraneFest is free, but there is a minimal parking fee.  For more information about CraneFest Sandhill Crane & Art Festival, go to this website: cranfest.org

More facts about sandhill cranes:

    •       The sandhill crane is Michigan’s largest bird, with a wingspan reaching up to seven feet. Sandhill cranes mate for life, but breeding takes time. It often takes four to seven years before the cranes breed, making them among the slowest reproducing birds in North America.
    •       There is no clear consensus on sandhill crane population in Michigan. This, combined with other existing challenges to sandhill crane persistence that include a slow reproduction rate, disease, poisoning by ingesting lead ammunition and tackle, collisions with power lines, and other hazards, indicates a lack of sufficient evidence that a recreational hunting season would not hinder continued recovery of sandhill cranes.
    •       If sandhill cranes are damaging crops, Michigan farmers may obtain a special permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to control conflicts caused by those migratory birds on corn farms adjacent to prime wetland habitats. But biologists and researchers agree: a fall hunting season would not provide direct assistance to crop areas impacted by sandhill cranes that occurs in the spring. Groups like the International Crane Foundation have worked at developing a non-toxic and non-lethal chemical deterrent, called Avipel, which is more effective than lethal control in reducing crop damage by sandhill cranes.

The Michigan Songbird Protection Coalition is a group of Michigan citizens that includes hunters, biologists, bird hobbyists, environmentalists, farmers and animal welfare advocates, among others.

For more information about our call to action to prevent hunting of mourning doves and sandhill cranes and, please visit the Michigan Songbird Protection Coalition website: www.songbirdprotection.com