There are 266 wild whooping cranes in North America (up from just 16 in 1941). They are a protected species that migrates from Canada down Mexico way every year. The biggest threat to cranes these days comes not from trigger-happy hunters with troglodytic tendencies but from an element within the broadly defined environmentalist movement that helped save them in the first place: Wind farms.
Wind energy has gained such traction, whooping cranes could again be at risk—either from crashing into the towering wind turbines and transmission lines or because of habitat lost to the wind farms.
"Basically you can overlay the strongest, best areas for wind turbine development with the whooping crane migration corridor," said Tom Stehn, whooping crane coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The service estimates as many as 40,000 turbines will be erected in the U.S. section of the whooping cranes' 200-mile wide migration corridor.
"Even if they avoid killing the cranes, the wind farms would be taking hundreds of square miles of migration stopover habitat away from the cranes," Stehn said.
The birds stop every night during their migration and apparently that's when they get snagged in the towers and transmission lines.
An old Winston ad used to ask, What do you want, good grammar or good taste?, thus extending Manichean dualism to tobacco products. Whether such things are actually mutually exclusive, we might ask, what do you want, whooping cranes or renewable wind power? Tradeoffs. Everything is tradeoffs.