Budget Crunch Threatens Crane Project

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There's no free lunch in Wisconsin, but does that mean whooping cranes will be toast? The state is considering eliminating the job of whooping-crane coordinator, a person who helps organize the annual migration of cranes raised in captivity and then led to their Florida wintering grounds by ultralight aircraft. (Some of the early birds have now learned to go it on their own.) The coordinator is Wisconsin's contribution to the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership, which is working to establish a second migratory flock of whooping cranes in North America. But the travel plans of the cranes could fall victim to Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle's determination to eliminate a $1.6 billion deficit without raising taxes. The whooping-crane position is among 173 that have been offered for sacrifice by bureaucrats ordered to chop the payroll. Other participants in the project describe the government-sponsored job as vital to the whole effort. The highly publicized program has successfully taught about three dozen birds to migrate on their own. The latest class of 14 graduates recently arrived in Florida. The goal is to get about 125 birds, including 25 breeding pairs, to migrate.