Sandhill crane pair on Malheur NWR. Photo by Dan Streiffert

International Crane Foundation Visits Malheur

During the first week of August 2022, several staff from the North America Programs at the International Crane Foundation (ICF) visited Malheur NWR, as part of a grand tour of Sandhill crane breeding and stopover sites in the Pacific NW.

The ICF works worldwide to conserve cranes and the ecosystems, watersheds, and flyways on which they depend. Most of the world’s cranes are rare, endangered, or in decline; however, the remarkable recovery of Sandhill Cranes is a story of true conservation success. Sandhill Cranes are proof that when private and public landowners commit to sharing their lands with cranes, when they truly benefit from that commitment, and when broad public support ensures policies that promote the protection and wise management of wetlands, cranes and many other species of wildlife can thrive among us. As part of ICF’s Strategic Planning for our Sandhill Crane Program, we are visiting sites that embody this commitment that are crucial to keep the recovery of the Sandhill crane on track. Malheur National Wildlife Refuge fills many critical needs for Sandhill Cranes, and other wetland and water dependent birds.

A key to Sandhill Crane recovery is ensuring that the processes that helped the process be a success over the past century remain – restoring and protecting wetlands, reducing pressures on migration and wintering areas, increasing public awareness about cranes and the wetlands they depend on, and ensuring peaceful coexistence between cranes and farmers. Many key breeding and migration sites, and especially wintering areas, are under threat or degraded. Sandhill Cranes are a state threatened species in California and a state endangered species in Washington. The Greater sandhill crane that breed in Oregon are considered Conservation Strategy Species.

Crossing the boundaries between public and private lands, Sandhill Cranes migrate through long corridors where they must navigate power lines, hunting, and other threats. The ICF provides advice, expertise, and science-based support to all who work to help Sandhill Cranes thrive across the continent and lends support to many partners regarding Sandhill Crane habitat development, management, and restoration. It was wonderful to visit these great crane places like Malheur NWR – but even better to meet the dedicated staff and volunteers who make conservation happen on the ground. We truly value these partnerships and look forward to working together to secure a future for cranes and people throughout the Pacific Flyway.

International Crane Foundation staff, along with Malheur NWR staff, met to discuss issues that impact cranes in the refuge, and throughout the Pacific flyway, during an August 2022 visit. (From L: Travis Miller, MNWR Supervisory Ecologist; Jeff Mackey, MNWR Manager; Andy Caven, VP North America Programs, ICF; Anne Lacy, Senior Manager North America Programs, ICF; Liz Smith, Director North America Programs and Senior Whooping Crane Biologist Texas Program (Ret.), ICF; James Dodson, Water and Coastal Resources Consultant, ICF; Cathy Nowak, Biologist Oregon Dept of Fish and Wildlife (Ret.); Gary Ivey, Research Associate - Pacific Flyway Program, ICF. Photo by Alexa Martinez, MNWR Biologist.