Bragg Reaches Recovery Milestone for the Endangered
Red-cockaded Woodpecker Five Years Earlier than Expected
FORT BRAGG – Today the U.S. Army and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced the recovery of the North Carolina Sandhills population of the federally-endangered red-cockaded woodpecker five years earlier than anticipated.
In 1992 the Sandhills East population on Fort Bragg stood at 238 clusters
(family groups of red-cockaded woodpeckers). Today, through partnerships
formed with state, federal and private conservation groups that number
has risen to 368 clusters. These numbers include groups of birds found
on private, partnership and state lands that surround Fort Bragg.
"Fort Bragg has been a leader in coming up with innovative ways to partner with private, federal and state agencies in order to meet their recovery responsibilities for the red-cockaded woodpecker," U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dale Hall said. “Over the past 15 years, the positive relationships forged between these Sandhills partners have resulted in a historic step forward in our collective efforts to recover this endangered bird," Hall said.
Colonel Al Aycock, Fort Bragg garrison commander, and Addison D. Davis, IV, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army for Environment, Safety, and Occupational health, were a few of the leaders praising the collaborative approach to recovery taken by these partners and the positive effect recovery will have on training restrictions. Both the Army and the Service have exported lessons learned in the Sandhills to other installations and other species recovery efforts across the country.
"This recovery validates the success of the Army's ongoing sustainability efforts, demonstrates our commitment to preserve precious natural resources, such as the long leaf pine ecosystem of the Sandhills, and amplifies what we can achieve by working together with community partners,” said Deputy Assistant Secretary Davis. “Equally important, this accomplishment allows the young men and women of our great Army to conduct tough, realistic training.”
As an example, a program born in the Sandhills uses a unique tool called a Safe Harbor Agreement, which enables private landowners to work together with government and non-government agencies to help ensure the survival of imperiled wildlife, plants and fish. Today, 327 landowners are part of 31 Safe Harbor agreements in 17 states protecting more than 3.5 million acres of habitat for 35 species. Another unique approach to recovery was taken by the Army and The Nature Conservancy which entered into a Cooperative Agreement whose goal is to fund the purchase of key lands in the Sandhills that have a high overall conservation value.
In August 2005, the North Carolina Sandhills Conservation Partnership was recognized at the White House Conference on Cooperative Conservation as one of the first partnerships in the nation among the Service, the Department of the Army, state agencies, and private conservation groups. The partnership is comprised of the U.S. Army at Fort Bragg, the U.S. Army Environmental Center, the Service, the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, the North Carolina Division of Parks and Recreation, The Nature Conservancy, the Sandhills Area Land Trust and the Sandhills Ecological Institute.
To date, the partnership has conserved through fee-simple purchase or
purchase of conservation easements more than 12,000 acres of land. The
partnership is also hosting a conservation summit in conjunction with the
celebration to premier a draft conservation plan for the Sandhills. This
plan contains strategies for land conservation and management designed
to ensure the long-term health and integrity of the Sandhills longleaf
pine ecosystem which red-cockaded woodpeckers and many other species rely
on for their survival.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 95-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System, and operates 69 national fish hatcheries, 64 fishery resource offices and 81 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores national significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat, 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.
More photos of the event -- go here
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