Letter: Louisiana failing as crane steward

Please, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, end this doomed experiment to establish a colony of endangered whooping cranes in Louisiana. Take the remaining birds away before we shoot them all. After five of these birds have been shot here, it must be evident that Louisiana, once again, gets a failing grade.

Yes, it is true that, even though we have treated our world-class wetlands abysmally, what’s left of them would make a perfect habitat for these birds, and having whooping cranes in our state would be a badge of distinction that could actually bring financial benefits. Except for one thing: We have too many people who are not sportsmen here in the “Sportsman’s Paradise.” We do, of course, have many ethical sportsmen and women here, but too many of us would rather just shoot anything that moves. One of the cardinal rules of hunting, and that true sportsmen follow, is to know what it is you are shooting and verify it as an appropriate target.

But many of us are just yahoos itching to see how well the new gun works. Imagine this “thought” process: “Hey there is a huge white bird over there and I’ve never seen anything like it before, let’s see what the No. 2 shot will do to it.” The number of bald eagles that have also been shot here proves that this type of thinking is ingrained in certain segments of our culture … An even darker explanation for this latest desecration could be that these people intended to kill a whooping crane. We should all hope and pray that wasn’t the case but, sadly, it is possible here. Education will not change the behavior of those who deride knowledge and don’t want endangered species getting in our way. We are only interested in what we can extract from nature, not what we can gain from its intangible gifts. Any suggestion that these birds have intrinsic value by their mere existence will elicit the loud guffaws of our ignorant legions. Indeed, we don’t even have the sophistication or values required to keep our state clean. much less to conserve and protect this treasure of the Earth.

With only 600 or so whooping cranes left, you can’t afford to continue letting us use them as clay pigeons; we have already killed almost 1 percent of the world population. Mississippi or Alabama may be more capable of understanding what an honor it is to be the stewards of these magnificent birds, but Louisiana clearly is not.

James Wilkins

professor

Baton Rouge