South Carolina Partners for Fish and Wildlife restore red-cockaded woodpecker habitat
Good things can flow from all sorts of motivations.
Odell Byrd did not start out wanting to establish new nesting areas for endangered red-cockaded woodpeckers. He had a few acres of land that his grandfather had originally bought after World War II, part of which had been a family farm at one time, and which now was too overgrown to hike through easily.
“I wanted to thin out the undergrowth so I could walk through and enjoy my forest,” he said.
But that forest included a lot of mature longleaf pines, 30 to 90 years old, and there is nowhere a red-cockaded woodpecker would rather nest than that exact kind of pine tree.
So Byrd started working with the Sandhills Longleaf Pine Conservation Partnership, a group of federal and state agencies, non-governmental organizations and private landowners working to improve the longleaf pine ecosystem in northern South Carolina. It supports a larger effort known as America’s Longleaf Restoration Initiative).
And he started working with Partners for Fish and Wildlife, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s premier tool for promoting conservation on privately owned land. The program, which is entirely voluntary, provides technical and financial assistance to landowners and others to help benefit threatened, endangered and at-risk wildlife.
Byrd’s land is adjacent to Cheraw State Park, just south of the border between North and South Carolina in Chesterfield County. There are currently no woodpeckers nesting on his property, but there are plenty in Cheraw, and woodpecker recovery experts know that the birds will sometimes fly a little distance to make fresh nests in longleaf pines. And the Service will even help them, by excavating and installing nests in the trees to welcome them.
The longleaf pine ecosystem once covered approximately 90 million acres in the Southeastern United States. This unique ecosystem has declined 97% and now contains fewer than three million acres. Today, only scattered patches of the longleaf pine ecosystem occur.
But in locations all over the Southeast, an array of partners work with landowners like Byrd, and his sister Sharon Cayer, who is also restoring habitat on family land she owns nearby. Partners on the Byrd restoration project include the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, South Carolina Forest Commission, Clemson University, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, Chesterfield Soil and Water Conservation District, The Longleaf Alliance, South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation & Tourism, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, and the Peedee Land Trust.
The partners and the Byrds have worked together to thin out the thick, tangled undergrowth that had grown up over the years, which made it better for him to take his hikes, and also more enticing as a possible future home for red-cockaded woodpeckers.
Phil Kloer, Public Affairs Specialist
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