Improving Habitat for the Ivory-billed Woodpecker

March 1, 2006

By Pat Leonard

Deputy Secretary of the Interior, Lynn Scarlett (right) praised what she called good conservation and good science, both taking place in the Big Woods as part of the recovery effort for the Ivory-billed Woodpecker. Scarlett attended the first annual “Call of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker Celebration” held in Brinkley, Arkansas, paddling the bayous to witness first-hand the work being done to preserve habitat for the ivory-bill. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology is an integral part of the recovery process and was acknowledged by the Deputy Secretary for the work of its search crews, volunteers, and scientists. Scarlett said, “I’d like to thank the Cornell Lab of Ornithology for their great science work that has made the research possible here and that has helped us to confirm the sighting of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker.”

Deputy Secretary Scarlett also announced that more federal support is on its way for restoration and protection the bottomland forest in eastern Arkansas. She said the Bush administration is seeking an additional $2.1 million for the recovery effort in the 2007 fiscal year that begins October 1. The funding will cover planning, monitoring, and law enforcement. The search team’s efforts fall under the monitoring category.

In addition, nearly $800,000 is being awarded to Audubon Arkansas, the Arkansas chapter of The Nature Conservancy, and the Mississippi River Trust through the Private Stewardship Grants program for 2006. This money will be used to promote conservation on private lands, to benefit the ivory-bill and the many other species that inhabit this area. Click here to read more about these grants and how they will be used to restore or improve more than 5,000 acres in the Mississippi delta region.

Deputy Secretary Scarlett was lavish in her praise for the majesty of the bottomland forest she visited and for the landowners who have preserved these remnants of an ancient ecosystem: “This morning we had a chance to paddle in some of those bayous and among those trees, and even without the bird, it is a wonderful, wonderful, wonderful experience. You’re special guardians of this great bird that some had thought extinct. What you do in saving wild places and spaces will give this bird and the other critters in this area a chance.”

What is happening in the Big Woods will have an impact far beyond the possible recovery of a species so critically endangered as the ivory-bill. Deputy Secretary Scarlett pointed out that this conservation effort transcends any one species or place, “…sustaining habitat for deer, bear, and the ducks that are linked to local cultures and hunting traditions.” Scarlett singled out local hunters as being leaders in the effort to preserve the Big Woods for future generations of hunters, birders, and other outdoor enthusiasts. She said what the people of Arkansas have done, along with the partners in the ivory-bill project, perfectly defines the concepts of "cooperative conservation" and “citizen stewards,” both stated goals of the Department of the Interior. The Ivory-billed Woodpecker Project is a perfect example of cooperative conservation that works.