Operation Migration to close after 25 years

A 25-year-old Wisconsin organization dedicated to reintroducing endangered whooping cranes to the area announced Friday it will be closing.

Operation Migration is a conservation organization that is best known for teaching whooping cranes to follow ultralight aircraft along a migratory path and reintroducing them to the wild. Though the group hasn’t been leading flights since 2015, their work releasing and monitoring cranes has continued.

According to leadership, however, decisions by the Fish and Wildlife Service have made the organization’s goal of creating a self-sustaining population of whooping cranes in the area unattainable. With their goal out of reach, leaders said they decided it was no longer necessary to accept donations of money and time for the cause.

Though the organization will dissolve, officials said that their impact will still be felt.

“When we used an ultralight aircraft to lead birds south, it attracted an audience of environmentalists, birders, pilots and adventurers,” said Operation Migration founder Joe Duff. “It educated people to the plight of endangered species like whooping cranes. So that’s part of our legacy.”

The organization flew over 17,457 miles and led a total of 186 whooping cranes throughout the 15 years it spent flying aircraft. It helped many more in the 10 years that followed.

Operation Migration will cease operations by the end of the year.