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International Paper, Environmental Defense and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Celebrate Five-Year Anniversary of Landmark Red-cockaded Woodpecker Habitat Conservation Plan
The award-winning program was the first of its kind to help save an endangered species.


March 29, 2005

Rick Ouellette, International Paper, (912) 238-6399


BAINBRIDGE, Ga. - March 29, 2005 -- International Paper and its partners, Environmental Defense, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and Georgia Department of Natural Resources today are celebrating the five-year anniversary of International Paper’s award-winning Red-cockaded Woodpecker Habitat Conservation Plan. Implementation of the landmark agreement has resulted in a dramatic increase in the Red-cockaded Woodpecker population at International Paper’s Southlands Forest in Bainbridge, Ga., from three male birds in two groups or family units to 50 birds comprising 15 groups with 13 potential breeding pairs.

“Our Red-cockaded Woodpecker Habitat Conservation Plan serves as a model for public and private partnerships which can benefit imperiled species across the United States,” said Dr. Sharon Haines, IP’s director, sustainable forestry and forest policy, Forest Resources. “The program’s success is a tribute to the spirit of partnership and a shared commitment to environmental responsibility.”

The award-winning conservation plan, which was approved by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service in 1999, was the first of its kind where a private landowner agreed to establish a mitigation bank and increase the number of birds on their property. By combining regulatory flexibility, economic incentives and cooperation between various organizations, the agreement has been successful in protecting an endangered species through an innovative “conservation banking” program.

“Our partnership with International Paper exemplifies how conservation and recovery of listed species can occur when private-federal cooperators come together for a common cause,” said Ralph Costa, coordinator, Red-cockaded Woodpecker Recovery, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. “The Red-cockaded Woodpecker population growth at Southlands is an outstanding success story, exceeding the growth rates seen on most, if not all, other populations of similar size.”

Since the late 1990’s, International Paper professional biologists and their agents have translocated 40 sub-adult red-cockaded woodpeckers to its Southlands Forest, monitored and documented on-site reproduction (38 nests, 93 nestlings), banded 79 nestlings and maintained/enhanced habitat through active forest management. As a result of the targeted and well-managed effort, the Southlands Forest Red-Cockaded Woodpecker population has increased nearly 17 fold. Presently, the IP forestry team actively manages 5,300 acres for Red-cockaded Woodpeckers as compared to approximately 1,800 acres prior to the inception of the Habitat Conservation Plan.

“I hope that other landowners in the south will view this highly-successful program as a model,” said Robert Bonnie, managing director, Environmental Defense for Conservation Incentives. “We hope to see similar programs developed elsewhere.”

The success of the Red-cockaded Woodpecker Habitat Conservation Plan helped International Paper win a number of major environmental awards including the U.S. Department of Interior’s Conservation Science Award, the World Environment Council’s Gold Medal for Corporate Environmental Achievement, the American Forest & Paper Association’s Wildlife Stewardship Award and, most recently, a Georgia Wildlife Partnership Award.

The Red-cockaded Woodpecker is a unique species in the Southeastern United States. The cardinal-sized bird makes its home in mature pine forests. As recently as the early 1990's, the RCW population at Southlands was a recipe for certain extirpation within a few years if public and private interest had not come together as partners. A territorial, cooperative breeding species, the RCW is non-migratory bird that frequently has the same mate for several years. There is only one pair of breeding birds within each group, and they normally raise only a single brood each year. This distinctive bird’s back features black and white horizontal stripes, but its most distinguishing feature is a black cap and nape that encircle large white cheek patches. During breeding season, the male has a small red streak on each side of its black cap called a cockade, which led to the bird’s name. The RCW feeds primarily on beetles, ants, caterpillars, wood-boring insects and spiders, as well as fruits and berries on occasion. This species plays a vital role in the intricate web of life of the southern pine forests.

International Paper ( businesses include paper, packaging and forest products. As one of the largest private landowners in the world, IP professional foresters and wildlife biologists manage the woods with great care in compliance with the rigorous standards of the Sustainable Forestry Initiative® program. The SFI® program is an independent certification system that ensures the perpetual planting, growing and harvesting of trees while protecting biodiversity, wildlife, plants, soil, water and air quality. In the U.S. alone, IP protects more than 1.5 million acres of unique and environmentally important habitat on its forestlands through conservation agreements and land sales to environmental groups. And, the company has a long-standing policy of using no wood from endangered forests. Headquartered in the United States, IP has operations in over 40 countries and sells its products in more than 120 nations.

Red-cockaded woodpecker
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