The North American Crane Working Group met for the first time in May 1987 at the International Crane Workshop in Qiqihar, China. Prior to this, an informal group, chaired by Dr. James C. Lewis, had been active in North America since the early 1970's. This group produced a book chapter about Sandhill Cranes and organized North American crane workshops in 1975, 1978, 1981, 1985, and 1988. The Proceedings were published by the hosting agencies. The role of the informal group was to improve communication and interaction among individuals researching or managing cranes in North America, to stimulate further research, to help identify research and management needs, and to provide ease of access to a large amount of crane literature.
As interest in cranes continued to grow, so to did the complexities surrounding conservation issues, propagation techniques, and research impetus. The group felt that it was time to officially incorporate and become a bona fide organization. NACWG was founded in February 1988 at the Fifth North American Crane Workshop on the Kissimmee Prairie, Florida, as an organization of professional biologists, aviculturists, land managers, and other interested individuals dedicated to the conservation of cranes and their habitats in North America. A Board of seven Directors was elected including Gary Lingle of Nebraska as Chief Executive Officer. The North American Crane Working Group, Inc., was officially incorporated as a non-profit corporation with its registered office in Grand Island, Nebraska, on 28 October 1988. The registration office for the corporation was moved to Baraboo, Wisconsin, in 2012.
Current board members (2020-2023):
President: Hillary Thompson, International Crane Foundation, Baraboo, Wisconsin
Vice president: Sammy King, Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Treasurer: Barry Hartup, International Crane Foundation, Baraboo, Wisconsin
Secretary: Megan Brown, University of Maryland, College Park
David Aborn, University of Tennessee, Chattanooga
Antonio Cantu, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge
Tom Leiden, Leiden Conservation Foundation, Hunting Valley, Ohio
Tommy Michot, University of Louisiana, Lafayette
Glenn Olsen, Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Laurel, Maryland
Richard Urbanek, New Lisbon, Wisconsin
Jeannie van Vianen, International Crane Foundation, Baraboo, Wisconsin