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For Immediate Release:
Feb.24, 2006
FWS--Tom Mackenzie
678-296-6400 (mobile)
DOI--Joan Moody

Deputy Interior Secretary Announces President to Seek more than $2.1 Million for Ivory-Billed Woodpecker in Fiscal Year 2007 Budget
Interior also announces three groups from Arkansas and Mississippi To receive nearly $800,000 for private lands conservation

BRINKLEY, Ark. - Deputy Interior Secretary P. Lynn Scarlett said today the President is requesting more than $2.1 million to bolster the recovery effort for the endangered Ivory-billed Woodpecker that John James Audubon once called "the great chieftain of the woodpecker tribe."

"The rediscovery of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker energized conservationists last year," Scarlett said. "As the search of more than 550,000 acres intensifies, this funding will play a critical role in helping us ensure this second chance is not wasted. The work that is being done today will have lasting conservation benefits for this woodpecker, migratory birds and wildlife throughout the valley."

Scarlett said the funding will benefit at least 28 species in the region in addition to this species of woodpecker, which had been thought to be extinct for more than 60 years before the April 28, 2005 announcement of its rediscovery at Cache River National Wildlife Refuge in the bottomland hardwood forests known as the Big Woods of Arkansas.

Deputy Secretary Scarlett's announcement came during a meeting of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's executive committee of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker recovery team in Brinkley, Ark. The 12-member executive committee, chaired by the Service's Southeast Regional Director Sam D. Hamilton, provides oversight for the Ivory-billed Woodpecker recovery process. The first draft of a recovery plan for the woodpecker is expected to be available for public comment in Sept. 2006.

The President is requesting $1.6 million for recovery planning, $396,000 for monitoring work the Lower Mississippi Valley Joint Venture is beginning, and $197,000 for law enforcement, for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1.

"As the waterfowl season has come to a close, I want to acknowledge the role of the late Rex Hancock, his fellow waterfowl hunters and leaders here like former Sen. Dale Bumpers, who led the way in taking huge steps to ensure this bottomland hardwood habitat would be here for generations of hunters, birders and outdoor enthusiasts to enjoy for decades to come," Scarlett said.

In addition to announcing the FY 2007 request for more than $2.1 million, Scarlett also announced that three prominent conservation organizations in Arkansas and Mississippi would share $800,000 made available through the agency's Private Stewardship Grants program for FY 2006. The money will be used to bolster private lands conservation in the Lower Mississippi Valley to benefit the woodpecker and other wildlife.

The Nature Conservancy of Arkansas, Arkansas Audubon and the Mississippi River Trust will share nearly $800,000 set aside last year for projects to benefit the Ivory-billed Woodpecker.

The bird historically has preferred expansive areas of mature riverine or swamp forests with embedded patches of large dead and dying trees. Because of the scarcity of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker, much remains to be learned about this bird. Scientists do know, however, that its diet is largely dependent upon wood-boring beetle larvae found in recently dead and dying trees--although it is known to feed on other arthropods and vegetation during certain times of the year.

The funded projects will help improve potential habitat for the bird in this area and ultimately may assist biologists in better understanding the bird's feeding behavior.

The Private Stewardship Grant program is an incentive-based program aimed at providing financial assistance to private landowners who want to conserve habitat to benefit wildlife listed as threatened or endangered by states or the federal government. The program is cost-shared with a variety of conservation partners and private landowners.

The following projects have been selected for private stewardship grants:

The Nature Conservancy, Arkansas Chapter ($380,950). The Nature Conservancy will restore 440 acres of agricultural field to native bottomland hardwood wetland habitat for the Ivory-billed woodpecker and other targeted species. The project involves hydrological restoration of the lower stream reach of Benson Creek to its natural flow regime. This project site is adjacent to public lands where the Ivory-billed Woodpecker sightings have been confirmed or are anticipated to occur. When completed, the existing agricultural crop fields and associated ditch will be restored to a natural stream channel, riparian wetland vegetation and associated bottomland hardwood forest. The project will be monitored and used as a demonstration site to help inform nearby private landowners about restoration techniques.

The Nature Conservancy, Arkansas Chapter ($71,269). The Arkansas Chapter of The Nature Conservancy will work in collaboration with private landowners to enhance 350 acres of foraging habitat for the Ivory-billed Woodpecker. This project will utilize various treatments (e.g., girdling, prescribed burning) to increase the number and length of time a recently dead or dying tree may be valuable to the woodpecker for foraging. The Nature Conservancy and landowners will work together to determine the treatment method and size of the project as well as monitor the results. Information on improving habitat for the woodpecker will be developed and provided to private landowners.

"We are thankful to have been chosen as a recipient of this grant, which will result in practical habitat restoration that will benefit the Ivory-bill and other animals in the Big Woods of Arkansas," said Scott Simon, state director, The Nature Conservancy, Arkansas Chapter.

The Mississippi River Trust ($100,000). The Mississippi River Trust will work with a number of partners to restore 500 acres and enhance 2,000 acres of habitat to increase the food supply for the Ivory-billed Woodpecker. This partnership project involves contributions from the Natural Resources Conservation Service, Environmental Defense, The Carbon Fund and BASF Corporation to enhance habitat for the Ivory-billed woodpecker and to protect areas of old-growth timber. Demonstration areas will be established and field days conducted to reach out to private landowners. Efforts will be made to place safe-harbor agreements on all acres involved in the project.

"The Mississippi River Trust is truly honored to receive this grant from the Department of Interior's Private Stewardship Grants Program to aid in the recovery of the ivory-billed woodpecker, " said James L. Cummins, President of the Mississippi River Trust. "We are eternally grateful to Secretary Norton and Deputy Secretary Scarlet for the sacrifices they have made to serve our Nation and the foresight they have to develop important cooperative conservation programs such as this one."

National Audubon Society, Audubon Arkansas ($247,781). Audubon Arkansas proposes to work with private landowners to conduct restoration activities to improve habitat for the Ivory-billed Woodpecker. This project involves reforestation of cleared and degraded sites and forest habitat improvement on approximately 2,000 acres. Activities will include bottomland hardwood tree planting, prescribed burning, thinning and exotic species control within 35 miles of where the bird was initially seen.

"We are honored and thrilled to be a partner with the U.S. Department of Interior and its agency, the Fish and Wildlife Service, in support of the recovery of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker through this award," said Ken Smith, state director, Audubon Arkansas. "This grant reinforces Audubon's long tradition of working to conserve and protect the Ivory-billed Woodpecker. We especially appreciate the private landowners cooperating with us who enthusiastically support habitat restoration efforts on their lands."