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Red-cockaded Woodpecker

Progress Announced for Red-Cockaded Woodpecker Safe Harbor Agreement in South Carolina

Deputy Secretary Praises Efforts, Seeks Additional Participants


October 22, 2001

Christine Eustis, 404/679-7287

Deputy Secretary of the Interior J. Steven Griles today praised a large group of landowners for the progress they have made in recovering endangered red-cockaded woodpeckers on private lands in South Carolina. The landowners have signed onto a state-wide Safe Harbor Agreement that encourages habitat improvements beneficial to the woodpecker, while relieving the regulatory burden often associated with the Endangered Species Act.

“I commend these landowners for taking the initiative to protect this endangered species and encouraging their friends and neighbors to participate, as well.” said Griles. “The number of participants in South Carolina is growing every day and helping to put this species on the road to recovery. I encourage area landowners with long-needle pines on the properties to join this safe harbor conservation program.”

The Deputy Secretary pointed out that in 1999 there were 67 groupings of the red-cockaded woodpecker in Norfolk Southern Corporation’s Safe Harbor area. Today, Fish and Wildlife scientists estimate that there are 77 groupings. “We are on the right course, and that is good news for this beautiful bird and for the people of South Carolina.”

Griles made these comments during a meeting that Norfolk Southern Corporation hosted today at its Brosnan Forest timber and wildlife reserve, near St. George, South Carolina, to examine red-cockaded woodpecker management on private lands under the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Safe Harbor program.

The meeting included a tour of Brosnan Forest starting from the preserve’s conference center, followed by an afternoon roundtable discussion of Safe Harbor agreements. In addition to Deputy Secretary Griles, other participants included more than a dozen private landowners, and representatives from Norfolk Southern Corporation, the Fish and Wildlife Service, Milliken Forestry Company, Inc., and the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources.

“We congratulate Norfolk Southern on its commitment to red-cockaded woodpecker management,” said Griles. “Its 15,000-acre timber and wildlife preserve, Brosnan Forest, harbors the second largest known population of these woodpeckers in the world on a property owned by a single private landowner.”

“Gale Norton, Secretary of the Interior, is committed to encouraging such cooperative recovery efforts with private landowners,” continued Griles.

“Norfolk Southern is proud to do its part to aid in population recovery efforts for the red-cockaded woodpecker. The Safe Harbor Agreement has allowed Norfolk Southern to increase the red-cockaded woodpecker population without incurring additional property devaluation," said Steve Tobias, Vice Chairman and Chief Operating Officer, Norfolk Southern Corporation.

The South Carolina Safe Harbor Program for red-cockaded woodpeckers was established in 1999 under the federal Endangered Species Act to benefit the conservation of this endangered woodpecker through voluntary habitat improvements by private landowners. Landowners who enroll in the program determine the number of woodpecker family units on the property to use as a baseline. After agreeing to manage for the protected species, impacts to red-cockaded woodpecker habitat on the property can take place and endangered species can legally be taken, so long as the baseline number of the protected species is maintained.

“We believe the Safe Harbor program is a wonderful way for government agencies and private landowners to work together on threatened and endangered species conservation,” said Sam D. Hamilton, Southeast Regional Director of the Fish and Wildlife Service. “This meeting was a unique opportunity to showcase the success of the Safe Harbor program and thank the landowners who are participating.”

Red-cockaded woodpeckers prefer open, old growth pine savannas. This ecosystem was once prevalent across the south, but has since given way to agriculture, development, and intensive forestry. As a result, the woodpecker was one of the original species protected under the Endangered Species Act; however, its numbers have begun to increase thanks in part to the dedication of numerous private landowners.

For more information on RCW recovery, please visit the web site at

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 94-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System, which encompasses more than 535 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 70 national fish hatcheries, 64 fishery resource offices 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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