Press Releases – International Crane Foundation

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Mead Witter Foundation Establishes Endowment Fund
Originally published 2006-12-29

The Mead Witter Foundation of Wisconsin Rapids has just provided a one-time Special Directors’ Grant of $155,000 to the International Crane Foundation (ICF) in Baraboo, Wisconsin. The grant has established the Mead Witter China Endowment Fund which will support conservation activities of ICF program staff in this biologically rich country. China has a range of biodiversity — from boreal and tropical rainforests, to vast marshes and alpine desert — that is matched by very few countries. China’s diverse ecosystems are home to eight species of cranes, more than any other country.

“This is extraordinarily good news for the Crane Foundation,” explained ICF President Jim Hook. “Population and economic growth have resulted in huge pressures on natural resources in China. Yet rural areas near the great crane marshes are very poor. Our grass roots efforts, spanning decades, focus on sustaining and restoring the wetlands on which cranes depend, and involving local people in conservation, so important to their own future. U.S. dollars go a long way in these communities. This new endowment fund provides important stability that will sustain our commitment and effectiveness in a place vital for cranes.”

ICF was one of the first conservation organizations to work in China, beginning in 1979. The organization’s activities have been successful and varied, including one of the best examples of integrating poverty alleviation with wetland protection at Cao Hai. Efforts are now underway to restore water flows to some of the vast wetlands of northeast China. ICF was also among the first to conduct satellite tracking studies for birds in China.

The Mead Witter Foundation, a private philanthropic organization, is headquartered in Wisconsin Rapids. Founded in 1951, the Foundation is funded through earnings from endowments from George W. Mead and family members. The Mead Witter Foundation has been a major donor for the reintroduction of Whooping Cranes into central Wisconsin, a highly successful project that is bringing national attention and tourists to the area.

Due to the area’s rich wildlife and conservation heritage, ICF has often brought Chinese conservationists to central Wisconsin for training and experience sharing. Through these visits, ICF has also exposed thousands of Wisconsin citizens to Chinese culture and conservation.

“There are many parallels between efforts here in Wisconsin to preserve cranes and their habitats, and conservation efforts for the Asian cranes that migrate across China,” explained Jim Harris, Vice President of ICF. “The magnificent Red-crowned Crane, revered in oriental cultures, is a close relative of the Whooping Crane. One of ICF’s strengths is the global nature of our crane programs, so that we can take experience here in America and apply it to challenges for cranes and wetlands in China.”

“In return, our work in Wisconsin has benefited from the China experience. It was in China that we first learned the essential and positive role that farmers and rural communities can play for conservation, and the need for conservation to address their needs. That mindset changed how we responded to problems here about crane damage to potatoes and other crops. We began by talking with farmers, with a commitment to solving a significant problem for many potato and corn growers.”

If you would like more information about this topic, please phone Ann Burke at 608-356-9462 x147 or email Ann at
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