For Immediate Release
February 18, 1999

Contact: Tom MacKenzie
404/679-7291
Jack Cox (914) 397-1952
Kristin Zschiesche (972) 934-4524

U.S. FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE APPROVES INTERNATIONAL PAPER'S
RED-COCKADED WOODPECKER HABITAT CONSERVATION PLAN

On February 18, International Paper announced that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approved its habitat conservation plan for the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker. This innovative plan is the most ambitious ever approved under the federal Endangered Species Act in which a private landowner will voluntarily expand and enhance red-cockaded woodpecker habitat on its own property rather than simply maintaining existing populations or relocating woodpeckers to public forestland.

"Not only is it the largest plan of its kind, it is also breaking new ground," said Jamie Rappaport Clark, director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. "It is pioneering the concept of endangered species mitigation banking in the Southeast."

In an effort to enhance the long-term survival of the species, International Paper will increase its 1,300 acres of habitat scattered across four southern states to 5,300 acres at the company's Southlands Experiment Forest in Bainbridge, Georgia. This land will be specifically managed to develop, grow, and sustain the woodpecker population. International Paper

will voluntarily increase its responsibility from 18 active red-cockaded woodpecker clusters to as many as 30 active clusters, a 67-percent increase. The company will manage intensively for red-cockaded woodpeckers by installing artificial nesting cavities and creating new habitat for nesting and foraging.

The plan, which has the potential to contribute to the recovery of the species, was developed in partnership with state and federal wildlife agencies and the Environmental Defense Fund, a nonprofit environmental organization that has publicly criticized red-cockaded woodpecker habitat conservation plans in the past.

"It is rare to have the federal Government, state government, a major forest products company, and environmentalists agree on anything," said Michael Bean, chairman of the Environmental Defense Fund's Wildlife Program. "However, though endangered species conservation has often been controversial, this plan demonstrates that it is possible to find common ground on which both endangered species and landowners can prosper."

This Habitat Conservation Plan demonstrates that forests can be simultaneously managed for the ecological values represented by the woodpecker and the economic interests of timber production.

"International Paper is committed to sustainable forest management for the entire forest ecosystem, not just for the management of timber, and this red-cockaded woodpecker habitat

conservation plan is indicative of our dedication to the conservation and enhancement of endangered wildlife species on our forest lands," said George A. O'Brien, vice president of International Paper's forest resources division.

International Paper's forest management practices are guided by the Sustainable Forestry InitiativeSM, a program that integrates the perpetual growing and harvesting of trees with the protection of wildlife, plants, soil, air, and water quality.

Currently, 18 red-cockaded woodpecker groups on company-owned land in South Carolina, Alabama, and Louisiana face uncertain futures because their populations are too small to ensure long-term breeding success and surrounding land-use patterns have created fragmented habitats. Consolidating red-cockaded woodpecker management at Southlands Experiment Forest and increasing the population there from two to as many as 30 groups may provide a link between two large red-cockaded woodpecker populations located in the Apalachicola National Forest and the Red Hills region near Thomasville, Georgia, creating the potential for genetic interchange.

This plan also marks the establishment of the first mitigation bank for endangered species created in the Southeast on private land. This concept enables International Paper to increase its red-cockaded woodpecker population by assuming red-cockaded woodpecker mitigation responsibilities of other landowners who desire timely land management flexibility at market-driven rates.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting, and enhancing fish and wildlife and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 93-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System comprised of more than 500 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands, and other special management areas. It also operates 66 national fish hatcheries and 78 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces Federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Aid program that distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.

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Release #: R99-021


1999 News Releases

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