Ivory-billed Woodpecker Recovery Plan Released for Public Comment

WASHINGTON, DC, August 22, 2007 (ENS) - In an attempt to prevent the extinction of the rare Ivory-billed woodpecker, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today issued a draft recovery plan for public comment during the next 60 days.

Evidence supporting the Ivory-billed woodpecker's rediscovery with the presence of at least one bird in the Bayou de View area of Cache River National Wildlife Refuge was announced in 2004 and 2005. Before that sighting, there had been no confirmed sighting of an Ivory-billed woodpecker in more than 60 years.

While the woodpecker's existence has not been confirmed since, evidence continues to be gathered in Arkansas, Florida's panhandle, South Carolina, and other locations across the bird's historic range.

Rediscovery of the species led to the need to develop a recovery plan, says the Fish and Wildlife Service. The agency says it gathered "one of the most talented recovery teams" it has ever assembled to write the first recovery plan crafted for this species.

"Given the evidence pointing to its survival, we believe it would be irresponsible not to act. That's why we established this recovery team with some of the nation's best biologists to help us chart a reasonable, well founded path to save this species," said Sam Hamilton, regional director for the Service's Southeast Region and leader of the recovery team.

Since 1967, the Ivory-billed woodpecker has been federally listed as an endangered species.

The species appeared to be widely distributed throughout the southeast before European settlement. At that time, Ivory-billed woodpeckers ranged from the coastal plain of North and South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, large portions of Alabama, Mississippi and Arkansas, Louisiana, eastern Texas, west Tennessee, and small areas of Illinois, Kentucky, Oklahoma and Missouri.

The range became smaller by the late 1800s and the woodpecker was no longer found in Oklahoma, Missouri, Illinois or Kentucky. Ivory-billed woodpecker numbers continued to decline until the last confirmed sighting in 1944.

Hamilton says the woodpecker's disappearance is closely linked to logging and the disappearance of forest habitats that once covered much of the southeastern United States.

The recovery strategy will initially focus on learning more about the species' status and ecology, including documenting known locations and characterizing those habitats. Population goals are not identified, although such goals are key to recovery.

"The opportunity to recover this icon of the ornithological world cannot and should not be passed over," said Hamilton. "We want to encourage interested citizens, agencies and conservation organizations to participate in the comment period. The diverse team developed a balanced, common sense approach and we look forward to receiving feedback that makes it even better."

The draft plan also can be found at www.fws.gov/ivorybill/. Public comments on the plan will be accepted by the Service until October 22, 2007.

Comments may be faxed to 337-291-3139 or emailed to: ibwplan@fws.gov. For further information contact Deborah Fuller by calling 337-291-3100.

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