Thursday, January 30, 2003

Endangered species and the army

Over three hundred people met for 5 days (I am back because I only stayed three) to talk about strategies for saving the Red Cockaded Woodpecker. There was a period in the early 1990s when the RCW almost became the Spotted Owl of the Southeast, and earned the nickname of "the little bird that defeated the 82nd Airborne". Since then the Fish and Wildlife Service has worked hard to compromise with the organizations that control woodpecker land and there has been cooperation instead of confrontation.

Ironicly, military installations are key to that effort, with 26% of the remaining birds living on Department of Defense land. The woodpecker needs pine trees that are over 100 years old, which are scarce everywhere. But it also needs a very open forest, such as is produced by frequent burning. Military based that are used for training have long done a lot of controlled burning, in order to reduce the hazards from fires caused by weapons during training. At Fort Stewart, where we went on a field trip, the environmental staff said that there are particularly successful woodpecker colonies right next to some of the live fire ranges, because the frequent fires produce better habitat.

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