Conserving the Nature of America

News Release

Once-thought Extinct Ivory-Billed Woodpecker Rediscovered in Arkansas

April 28, 2005


Division of Public Affairs
External Affairs
Telephone: 703-358-2220

Federal Government and Partners Form Rapid Response Partnership to Support Recovery of Bird

(WASHINGTON) - Responding to the dramatic rediscovery of the Ivory-billed woodpecker at the Cache River National Wildlife Refuge in Arkansas, Interior Secretary Gale Norton and Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns today announced a multi-year, multi-million-dollar partnership effort to aid the rare birds survival. The bird has been thought to be extinct in the United States for more than 60 years.

"This is a rare second chance to preserve through cooperative conservation what was once thought lost forever," Norton said. "Decisive conservation action and continued progress through partnerships are now required. I will appoint the best talent in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and local citizens to develop a Corridor of Hope Cooperative Conservation Plan to save the Ivory-billed woodpecker."

The "Corridor of Hope" refers to the Big Woods of Arkansas, an area about 120 miles long and up to 20 miles wide in eastern Arkansas where the Ivory-billed woodpecker has been sighted.

The Interior Department, along with the Department of Agriculture, has proposed that more than $10 million in federal funds be committed to protect the bird. This amount would supplement $10 million already committed to research and habitat protection efforts by private sector groups and citizens, an amount expected to grow once news of the rediscovery spreads. Federal funds will be used for research and monitoring, recovery planning and public education. In addition, the funds will be used to enhance law enforcement and conserve habitat through conservation easements, safe-harbor agreements and conservation reserves.

"Finding a species once thought extinct is a rare and exciting event, and USDA is pleased to be a partner in the effort to protect Ivory-billed woodpeckers," Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns said. "At the same time, we understand that habitat conservation can impact landowners. Thats why were going to reach out to work cooperatively with stakeholders so we can all share in the joy of this discovery."

The action by Secretary Norton and Secretary Johanns came in response to news from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, The Nature Conservancy, and other members of the Big Woods Conservation Partnership that they had collected primary and secondary evidence of the birds existence in the Cache River National Wildlife Refuge. The primary evidence consists of video footage, while the secondary evidence consists of seven eye-witness sightings and audio evidence of the Ivory-billed woodpecker. In addition, recordings of the distinctive double rap of the bird are still under analysis. After conducting its own peer reviews of the evidence, the journal Science is now publishing these findings.

Secretary Norton congratulated Dr. John Fitzpatrick, Director of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Scott Simon, Arkansas State Director of The Nature Conservancy, for the cooperative, diligent, year-long research of their teams. Following credible reports of sightings of the bird, a multi-partner team led by Fitzpatrick and Simon, assisted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission and the Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission spent more than a year in the Big Woods of Arkansas searching for this rare bird. The evidence collected led scientists to conclude that the Ivory-billed woodpecker is now present in the Big Woods of Arkansas.

"Our next step to recover the bird must be as patient and thoughtful as the collection of evidence to confirm the existence of the bird," Norton said. "As we learn more, we will adjust our cooperative management effort."

The Ivory-billed woodpecker, the largest woodpecker in the United States, is the second largest in the world and had been one of six species of birds in North America thought to be extinct. Prior to this recent rediscovery, there had been no confirmed sightings of the bird in more than 60 years.

After consulting with Governor Mike Huckabee and other officials at the federal, state and local levels, the Interior Department will appoint members to a Corridor of Hope Cooperative Conservation team. Sam Hamilton, Regional Director for the Southeast Region of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, will lead the team.

Secretary Norton also announced that the Department will appoint technical experts to assist the conservation team in writing a recovery plan. The team will include Dr. Jim Tate, Science Advisor to Secretary Norton and a noted ornithologist, and David Mehlman, Director of the Migratory Bird Program at The Nature Conservancy.

The Corridor of Hope and recovery teams have nine assignments. They will:

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