Why It Matters: The North American Model of Wildlife Conservation is widely recognized as the most successful model of wildlife management in the world. Among the seven core components that comprise the model is the key tenant that wildlife policy should be formulated using the best available science. Unfortunately, this core component is often at the center of attack in state legislatures across the country, including in Tennessee where legislation to end the Sandhill Crane season has been introduced this session.
- House Bill 1867 and Senate Bill 1876 would prohibit the hunting of Sandhill Cranes in Tennessee.
- With fewer than 200 birds in the United States less than 100 years ago, Sandhill Cranes now boast a population of over 1.4 million and are regarded as a massive conservation success story.
- The Eastern population of Sandhill Cranes growth rate is 4% per year, while the harvest rate over the past several years in Alabama, Kentucky, and Tennessee has been <1%.
- With the continued growth of the Sandhill Crane population, human-wildlife conflicts are on the rise, including crop depredation, which causes millions of dollars in damage each year.
The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) is strongly opposed to these bills. Regulated hunting poses no population-level threat to Sandhill Crane conservation. Further, a key tenet of the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation is that wildlife policy is formulated through the best available science, and there is no scientific support for ending the Tennessee Sandhill Crane season.
In fact, the growth of the Sandhill Crane population can be attributed to science-based wildlife management, supported by sportsmen-generated conservation funding, conducted by state fish and wildlife agencies, including the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and Canada as a migratory species. The TWRA is staffed with professional wildlife biologists that work to carry out TWRA’s wildlife conservation mission. The TWRA and its Commission are the best equipped entity to make wildlife management decisions, including the regulation of Sandhill Cranes in Tennessee.
In addition to limiting opportunities for Tennesseans, Sandhill Crane management is supported by conservation dollars generated by Tennessee’s sportsmen and women through the “user pays – public benefits” American System of Conservation Funding. Tennessee’s sportsmen and women generated over $60.96 million for state-based conservation in 2021 that supports the management of game as well as non-game species. Additionally, sandhill crane conservation is supported through the sale of duck stamps, authorized by the Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp Act, which supports wetland conservation in the United States.
Tennessee, like many other states that have a Sandhill Crane season, regulates Sandhill Crane hunting through a limited quota tag draw system to ensure that harvest levels do not exceed management goals. Additionally, hunters must pass a test to ensure that they can properly identify Sandhill Cranes in the field and complete a post-season survey regardless of whether they harvested a Sandhill Crane or not.
CSF is opposed to these bills and will work to support maintaining the current Sandhill Crane hunting opportunities in the Volunteer State.