FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 25, 2002
The endangered red-cockaded woodpecker and its longleaf pine habitat will be restored, managed, and protected on Cowhouse Island at Dixon Memorial State Forest and Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge. The ongoing restoration of the woodpecker’s native habitat on the island is the result of a Memorandum of Understanding between the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, the Georgia Forestry Commission, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
A management plan is now being developed that will cover 2,258 acres of Dixon Memorial State Forest and 1,092 acres of the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge. No red-cockaded woodpeckers currently inhabit this area on Georgia Forestry Commission or Fish and Wildlife Service land. However, once their native habitat is restored, the agencies expect groups of woodpeckers from the surrounding interior islands and uplands to repopulate these areas.
“Although they were once prominent in the Southeast, longleaf pine forests have decreased to five percent of their original size,” said Sam D. Hamilton, the Service’s Southeast Regional Director. “Our partnership with the State is an important step toward the conservation of Georgia’s natural heritage.”
“Restoring longleaf pine habitat in this area will also help recover other federally -listed species like the threatened gopher tortoise, the threatened eastern indigo snake, and the Bachman’s sparrow, a species of concern,” continued Hamilton.
According to Hamilton, the planting of faster-growing slash pine and short rotation schedules have reduced available habitat for the woodpecker throughout the Southeast. Older longleaf pine trees on some of the upland habitat of Okefenokee Refuge have allowed about 97 red-cockaded woodpeckers to survive in 35 active clusters. A cluster is an aggregate of 1 to 10 cavity trees that are suitable for red-cockaded woodpecker roosting.
“We are currently pursuing the reestablishment of longleaf pine on suitable sites at Dixon Memorial State Forest and look forward to our partnership and continuing relationship to improve red-cockaded woodpecker habitat,” said Fred Allen, Director of the Georgia Forestry Commission.
“Partnerships between federal and state agencies and between agencies and private landowners, such as the Cowhouse Island Memorandum of Understanding, are helping us all to better meet our natural resources stewardship responsibilities,” said David Waller, Director of Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Resources Division. “These types of agreements are particularly important where neighboring properties can be managed to expand suitable habitat for rare wildlife.”
The Memorandum of Understanding is a long-term agreement that will be reviewed every 10 years, and its associated Cowhouse Management Plan will be reviewed annually. When additional longleaf habitat has been restored on the refuge, more red-cockaded woodpecker pairs could be moved there. Longleaf pine habitat will have to be reestablished on Dixon Memorial State Forest, and after it is suitable in 30 years, the red-cockaded woodpeckers on the refuge could use the State Forest land as a foraging area. The State Forest land would be suitable for cavity trees in about 80 years. After maturation, the refuge and state lands could support an additional 15 clusters.
Red-cockaded woodpeckers are approximately 8-inch-long black and white birds that need old living pine trees in which to excavate their roosting and nesting cavities. They live in family groups that typically consist of a breeding pair and one to three of their adult male offspring that assist in raising young birds each spring. Each woodpecker has its own roosting cavity within a cluster of cavity trees, and each family group needs about 100 to 200 acres of nearby mature, open pine forest in which to forage for insects, spiders, and other invertebrates.
Red-cockaded Woodpecker (Picoides borealis) Endangered Species
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Atlanta, GA 30345
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