As the world's two largest and most powerful socialist economies, the former Soviet Union and China, have undertaken major market-oriented reforms, the different paths, processes and results of reform in these two countries have been debated by scholars. However, the impact of economic reforms on the environment, from a comparative perspective, has received little scrutiny. Studies which have looked at the environment have focused exclusively on either Russia or China, noting a rise in natural resource degradation. By contrast, my central hypothesis is that, around Muraviovka in Russia and Caohai in China, economic reforms may be a positive force for the preservation of wetland habitat for endangered species of cranes. Specifically, in Muraviovka and Caohai, international nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) have been able to take advantage of reforms to protect wetlands.