Senate Resolution 30, introduced by Sen. Dale Zorn (R-Ida) on April 9, 2019, and House Resolution 61, introduced by Rep. James Lower (R-Cedar Lake) on April 10, 2019, encourage the Michigan Natural Resources Commission to add Sandhill Cranes to the game species list and seeks U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approval to establish a hunting season for these birds.

Sandhill Crane by Scott Helfrich

Unfortunately, we’ve been here before. The Michigan House Natural Resources Committee held a hearing on October 4, 2017, regarding HR154. This resolution sought to encourage the Natural Resources Commission to add Sandhill Cranes to the game species list and seek U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approval to establish annual recreational Sandhill crane hunting seasons in Michigan. This resolution did not ultimately pass and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has repeatedly not approved the Michigan population of Sandhill Cranes as a game species.

As Michigan’s oldest conservation organization dedicated to conservation, education, and research, Michigan Audubon opposes these resolutions and the pursuit to designate the Sandhill Crane as a game species in the state of Michigan. We believe, based on scientific and wildlife management data, that this species should continue receiving protection from the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act. You can read our full position statement here.

What can you do? You can voice your opinion on this matter by:

  1. Contacting the Senate Natural Resources Committee;
  2. Contacting the House Natural Resources and Outdoor Committee;
  3. Contacting your state senator;
  4. Contacting your state representative;
  5. Contacting your U.S. senator;
  6. Contacting Governor Whitmer;
  7. Signing the Michigan Audubon petition to oppose these resolutions.

Please make polite phone calls, write letters, or send emails to say that you would like to urge them to oppose the designation of the Sandhill Crane as a game species in Michigan. Below is suggested language for reaching out to legislators and to incorporate in social media posts:

Sandhill Crane by Jennifer Leigh Warner

My name is _____________, and I am a Michigan resident. I would like to urge you to vote NO on the designation of the Sandhill Crane as a game species. Based on the currently available science, hunting Sandhill Cranes would not serve as a sound wildlife management practice, will not protect agriculture crops, and could jeopardize the recovery of these iconic birds in our state. There is not adequate scientific data in support of Senate Resolution 30 or House Resolution 61.

This issue at large is not a legislative matter, but a wildlife management concern. In 2018, Michigan House Resolution 154 — worded similarly to SR30 and HR61 — failed to pass. This resolution (also introduced by Rep. James Lower) did not ultimately possess scientific credibility nor reflect ecologically-sound best practices in wildlife management as upheld by the US Fish and Wildlife Service. SR30 and HR61 are no different.

As a citizen invested in the conservation of our natural resources, I encourage legislators to make decisions based on sound scientific principles and in the best interest of the Eastern Population of Sandhill Cranes and of all current and future Michigan residents.

A hundred years ago, the Sandhill Crane population in Michigan hit an all-time low – they were hunted nearly to extinction and suffered greatly from loss of suitable wetland habitat throughout the state. While the bird’s eastern population has recovered, and they are now abundant throughout the Mississippi Flyway, we should celebrate this conservation success story rather than risk repeating past mistakes. While we recognize that Sandhill Cranes inflict minor crop damage, and an open hunting season is not a viable solution. Michigan has already established a successful management tool for agricultural stakeholders experiencing issues with this particular bird and this species is not overpopulated.

Cranes evoke a strong sense of appreciation and connection for many people in Michigan and around the world. Cranes and the habitats they use are valued and supported by wildlife and outdoor enthusiasts, farmers, families, scientists, landowners, private citizens, and conservationists.

Hunting is often cited as part of Michigan’s heritage as a way some of Michigan’s citizens connect with the natural world. I am writing to you as someone who appreciates and values wildlife and best practices in sound management of our natural resources. I am a wildlife enthusiast and I, too, represent and support Michigan’s heritage. I believe Sandhill Cranes should continue to be protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, that they are not a suitable game species in our state, and insufficient wildlife management data on this front exists to support what could result in the reversal of the Sandhill Crane’s conservation story and success.

Sandhill Crane by Sandy Powell

Additional ways you can learn more, stay informed, and support our work:

We hope for another (third) successful stop to the proposed hunting of this iconic species in Michigan and will keep you — our community — informed via our social media channels, website, eNews, and our member magazine, the Jack Pine Warbler.

I am grateful for your investment in birds, your voices for conservation, and your continued support!

For birds,

Heather Good
Executive Director

Sandhill Crane by Sheldon Goldstein