Nature Canada files Amicus Curiae Brief in Texas Court

June 6, 2013

Nature Canada has intervened in the American case The Aransas Project v Shaw, writing to the court to give the Canadian perspective on a lawsuit against the Texas government for causing the deaths of at least 23 Whooping Cranes.

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

This flock became the focus of a lawsuit when, in the winter of 2008-2009, 23 Whooping Cranes died of starvation in the Aransas Refuge. The suit claimed, and the court agreed, that the State had permitted too much water to be drawn from the river system 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 death toll of 8.5% of the flock.

Shortly after the decision was rendered, the State appealed. On June 6, 2013, Stephen Hazell filed an intervening brief on behalf of Nature Canada with the United States District Court. The brief outlined the United States’ existing duties to Canada under the Migratory Bird Convention of 1916. This treaty obligates both nations to protect the Whooping Crane, recognizing that because its habitat spans Canada and the United States, conservation requires joint effort.

Counsel for the Aransas Project requested injunctive relief, which would require the State to re-organize the regulatory system to ensure enough fresh water flows into the Aransas Refuge. The State’s appeal will likely be heard later in 2013. For more information, visit: