Three Natural Resource Management Agencies Express Cautious Optimism About Researchers' Evidence Suggesting Ivory-billed Woodpeckers Persist in NW Florida
Two Florida natural resource agencies and the federal agency overseeing the Ivory-billed Woodpecker’s recovery effort expressed interest in the latest results of work to find the elusive woodpecker in the Florida panhandle. At the same time, while the agencies indicated the evidence to date is promising, they said the bird’s presence is not yet confirmed.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), and the Northwest Florida Water Management District (District) all expressed interest in research activities underway in Northwest Florida, part of the woodpecker’s historic range.
Dr. Geoff Hill, a noted Auburn University professor and ornithologist, made public the results so far of his team’s year-long search in the Florida panhandle in an article published today in the online journal Avian Conservation and Ecology. The report is based on a joint research venture with Dr. Daniel Mennill, a sound analysis expert and professor from the University of Windsor in Ontario, Canada. Dr. Hill’s article can be found at http://www.ace-eco.org.
“The evidence Dr. Hill and his team presented is worth more than a passing glance and we have been working with him in this area given what it suggests about the bird’s potential presence,” said Sam Hamilton, who chairs the recovery team’s executive committee. “We should keep looking there. That said, at this time there’s not enough here we believe to definitively confirm the Ivory-bill’s presence in these woods.”
The Service is providing limited financial support – roughly $20,000 – for search activities on lands owned and managed by the District this year. The District owns more the 200,000 acres in Northwest Florida mostly along the Apalachicola, Choctawhatchee, Escambia, and Yellow River systems. The FWC, which continues to list the Ivory-billed Woodpecker as endangered under state law, also is supporting search activities in the area.
The Florida effort is part of a range-wide search effort that conservation partners initiated after the April 2005 announcement of the woodpecker’s rediscovery in Arkansas. Organized state-led searches are being supported in Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, and Texas. These range-wide search activities were the subject of a recent workshop for scientists to share information and ensure coordination. Held in August at Congaree National Park near Columbia, South Carolina, the workshop brought together 60 representatives, including Dr. Hill, from natural resource organizations, universities, and state and Federal land management agencies.
The Service expects to publish this fall a draft recovery plan for this famed woodpecker, once called the “great chieftain of the woodpecker tribe” by John James Audubon. The plan is the work of a recovery team made up of nearly 75 of the nation’s best wildlife biologists, forest ecologists, hydrologists, and ornithologists.
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, which encompasses 545 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 69 national fish hatcheries, 64 fishery resources offices and 81 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 and Native American tribal governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Assistance program, which distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies. Visit the Service's website at http://www.fws.gov/southeast.
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