Species Recovery Team

March 2006
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and its partners have formed a range-wide recovery team that will craft a roadmap for the conservation of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker. The team includes representatives from state fish and wildlife agencies, conservation organizations, and universities.

“This recovery team brings together some of the best minds in ecology, conservation biology, forestry, and ornithology, from a wide spectrum of organizations who can contribute knowledge and resources toward this magnificent bird’s comeback,” said Sam Hamilton, the Southeast regional director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “We likely won’t get a second chance to do this critical job, and we need to move effectively and quickly.”

The recovery effort will cover the bird’s historic range and will focus on the Big Woods corridor of Central Arkansas, Eastern Texas’ Big Thicket, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, southern Georgia, and the Carolinas.

The Ivory-billed Woodpecker once nested in both bottomland swamps and adjacent pine forests throughout the Southeastern United States and Cuba. Although activities are aimed at recovering the United States’ population, the recovery team plans to coordinate with Cuba and its conservation efforts.

In this country, the bird ranged from the coastal plain of North and South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, large portions of Alabama, Mississippi and Arkansas, Louisiana, eastern Texas, west Tennessee, and small areas of Illinois, Kentucky, Oklahoma and Missouri. The range became smaller by the late 1800s and the woodpecker was no longer found in Oklahoma, Missouri, Illinois or Kentucky. Ivory-billed numbers continued to decline and by the mid 1940s, most people believed all the birds were gone. Until now, there had been no confirmed sighting of an Ivory-billed Woodpecker in more than 60 years. “Arkansans should be proud of their conservation ethic and the work they’ve done to restore the Cache and White River basins, and the benefits to the woodpecker as well as waterfowl, wild turkey, deer and many other species of wildlife,” Hamilton said.

On April 28, the Interior and Agriculture Departments announced that $10.2 million would be redirected to conservation efforts benefiting this woodpecker’s recovery. This funding is in addition to the $10 million already committed to research and habitat protection efforts by private sector groups and citizens.

Under the Endangered Species Act, the Service is required to establish a recovery team to prepare a comprehensive recovery plan for the species and to advise agencies, stakeholders, and the public on conservation actions proposed for the species.

The recovery team is being led by an executive committee chaired by Sam Hamilton. Jon Andrew, chief of the National Wildlife Refuge System in the Southeast Region, will oversee the efforts of the team’s three working groups

The first two groups are Biology and Habitat Management and Conservation. The biology working group will focus on research, including natural history investigations, population viability, and survey techniques. The habitat management and conservation group will identify, inventory, and describe current and potential habitat and provide recommendations and advice on forest management. Dr. Ken Rosenberg from Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology is leading the biology working group. Kenny Ribbeck of the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries and Dr.Tom Foti with the Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission will lead the habitat management and conservation working group.

The third is the Corridor of Hope conservation working group, which is made up of public and private partners who will support the recovery planning effort and focus on land conservation in the Mississippi Delta of Arkansas. This team is led by David Goad, deputy director of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, and Scott Simon, state director for The Nature Conservancy in Arkansas.

For updates about the Ivory-billed Woodpecker from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, visit www.fws.gov/ivorybill.