Nature Canada

Nature Canada joins U.S. Supreme Court Fight to protect Whooping Cranes


May 12, 2015 (Ottawa, ON) – Nature Canada has intervened in an appeal to the United States Supreme court concerning the 2008-09 deaths of at least 23 Whooping Cranes from starvation caused by the State of Texas.

Nature Canada filed the Friend of the Court brief in support of The Aransas Project, a coalition of Texas nature groups and businesses. “Whooping Cranes are critically endangered migratory birds that make their homes in both the United States and Canada. If we are going to save this iconic species from extinction, both countries must live up to their international responsibilities” said Eleanor Fast, Executive Director of Nature Canada. “That means that Texas must ensure that Whooping Cranes get enough water to survive even when this is inconvenient for the oil and gas and chemical industries”

There is only one truly wild flock of Whooping Cranes left in North America. Numbering between 250-300, the flock migrates every year between summer breeding habitat in Canada’s Wood Buffalo National Park and wintering habitat in the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge on the Texas Gulf Coast.

This flock became the focus of a lawsuit when, in the drought winter of 2008-2009, 23 whooping cranes died of starvation in the Aransas Refuge. The Aransas Project lawsuit claimed, and the trial judge agreed, that Texas had permitted too much water to be drawn from rivers for municipal and industrial purposes, not leaving enough fresh water to flow into the Aransas Refuge downstream. The lack of fresh water reduced the Whooping Cranes’ food supply and caused the unprecedented deaths of 8.5% of the flock.

Unfortunately, the trial court’s decision was overturned on appeal. Now The Aransas Project is asking the United States Supreme Court to hear the case. Nature Canada’s brief outlines the international and domestic law obligations of the United States as well as Canada under the 1916 Migratory Bird Convention. Nature Canada argues that the State of Texas breached those obligations by failing to provide adequate water to the Refuge, resulting in starvation of some Whooping Cranes. View the Friend of the Court brief.

“The point is, what happens to the Whooping Cranes wintering in Texas affects Canada too” said Stephen Hazell, Nature Canada’s Director of Conservation and General Counsel. “The Canadian government and not-for-profit groups continue to work hard to save this endangered species. The Texas government’s failure to provide basic ecological needs to Whooping Cranes wintering in the Aransas Refuge not only violates the Migratory Bird Convention, but also undermines the progress Canada has made to conserve Whooping Cranes north of the border.”


About Nature Canada
Nature Canada is the oldest national nature conservation charity in Canada. Over the past 75 years, Nature Canada has helped protect over 63 million acres of parks and wildlife areas in Canada and countless species that depend on this habitat. Today, Nature Canada represents a network of more than 45,000 members and supporters and more than 350 nature organizations across the country, with affiliates in every province. Nature Canada focuses on effecting change on issues of national significance including bird conservation,  citizen science initiatives, urban nature initiatives, building a national network of conservation organizations, building a network of volunteers to care for critical natural habitat sites across Canada and being a voice for nature at the federal level.

Media contact
Stephen Hazell
Director of Conservation and General Counsel


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