No way to treat birds
The Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Commission has unanimously approved a plan to target 400 sandhill cranes, a bird previously protected for nearly l00 years. The commission heard a series of appeals, many from hunters, questioning the wisdom of opening the door to the decimation of a bird that Aldo Leopold described as "wildness incarnate."
In staff reports using such terms as "harvest" and "yields," this wonder of creation was reduced to a species over which we are destined to have dominion though it predates our own species by millions of years.
The crane is edible, but the commission's primary motivation seems to be seeking new means to stimulate hunting and maintain revenues in a world where many would rather marvel at the sight of such a bird and its 8-foot wingspan than shoot it as a trophy.
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Kentucky will have the dubious distinction of becoming the first state east of the Mississippi to permit hunting of the sandhill crane.
If conservation and the public good are part of the commission's mission, the condemnation of this magnificent bird serves no purpose, especially if ecotourism and celebrating the richness of Kentucky's wildlife play a role in its decisions. Kentuckians should pressure state officials to bring a more enlightened perspective to the value of the sandhill cranes within our borders.
Hunting makes sense
Sandhill cranes have been hunted for 50 years from Alaska to Texas; thousands are hunted in the Pacific and Central states annually.
As a former commissioner of the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, I was not surprised by approval of the hunt. I am surprised by exaggerated claims from opponents who fail to recognize that this hunt is based on well-developed scientific plans.
The Migratory Bird Treaty Act allows migratory birds to be hunted, but only under strict guidelines and peer-reviewed plans. Professional groups met and reviewed plans for 10 years before suggesting a limited hunting season.
Biologists from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Canadian Wildlife Service, the Flyway Council and the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources cannot all be wrong.
Kentucky's fish and wildlife agency has developed and implemented plans and projects to protect both hunted and non-hunted species. It has been recognized by the U.S. interior secretary for developing the Copperbelly Water Snake Conservation Plan in the Western Kentucky coalfields. Thousands of acres of wetlands were protected for this non-game species with help from farmers, miners and foresters. Hunters, not opponents of hunting, paid for the project.
Since the fish and wildlife department is funded by hunting license sales, the public can expect it to promote hunting. Hunters and anglers buy licenses that support all the wildlife programs, including those for non-hunted species. When non-hunters and non-anglers start investing their time and money to manage wildlife, we should pay more attention to them.
C. Tom Bennett