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Hunters helped save rare bird from extinction

By Deborah Zabarenko Tue Dec 13, 9:29 AM ET

BRINKLEY, Arkansas (Reuters) - A hunting lodge with antler chandeliers and stuffed ducks on the walls seems a strange place to celebrate the comeback of the ivory-billed woodpecker, but wildlife officials are doing exactly that.

They credit hunters in particular with helping bring the rare bird back from presumed extinction in the Big Woods section of Arkansas.
"The people of Arkansas, the hunting and fishing community, conserved these woods," Scott Simon of The Nature Conservancy told reporters on Monday at the Mallard Pointe Lodge, where a coalition of environmentalists, academics and wildlife officials rejoiced in woodpecker's return to the living.

Simon said hunters and others helped save the bird in large part by buying Duck Stamps, at $15 each. These stamps are not for postage, but pay for a federal migratory bird conservation fund, and eventually added up to $41 million to reclaim much of the habitat of the endangered woodpecker.

"The $41 million went into the land before the ivory bill showed up," Simon said.

The ivory-billed woodpecker was believed extinct for the last 60 years, and various reports of sightings of the big bird -- jet black and bright white with a red crest on the male -- were dismissed by professional ornithologists.

Their scepticism was warranted because of the destruction of the big old trees over much of the American southeast that began after the U.S. Civil War. The ivory bill's large size, with a body perhaps 20 inches (50 cm) long means it needs large trees to nest in. It is known to scale the bark off old, dying and dead trees to get at the cigar-sized grubs that live there.


But that was before an amateur naturalist said he saw one while paddling in the Cache River National Wildlife Refuge in February 2004. When he brought two bird experts to the same spot, they saw it too. And when a professor captured the bird in flight in fuzzy but authentic video, an analysis of all the data pointed to the startling fact that the ivory bill was back.

The ivory bill's public rediscovery last April energized a massive search in eastern Arkansas. Starting in November, teams of paid experts and volunteers have been scouring the Big Woods for signs of the bird.

In this, too, hunters are allies, according to Scott Henderson, director of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.

"The deer hunter and the duck hunter out there are some of the best eyes and ears we've got," Henderson said. "We have 7,000 hunters in this same area for eight hours at a time or more in some cases."

Good observers are essential to catching a glimpse of the camera-shy ivory bill. So far, some 20,000 hours of searching by dozens of trained observers have failed to spot the bird. But that is understandable, given each woodpecker's presumed 12 mile (20 km) foraging range. Experts do not know how many ivory-billed woodpeckers might exist in this area.

The total search area in Arkansas takes in 550,000 acres (222,600 hectares) of forest and swamp. Since last year, searchers have covered about 160 square kilometers (62 square miles).

Henderson acknowledged that hunters were concerned at first that the urge to protect the woodpecker's habitat would limit access to hunting areas, but he said this has not happened.

Game officials want to avoid what Henderson called a "spotted owl situation" -- the clash of interests that occurred in the 1980s between wildlife preservationists and loggers in the U.S. northwest over protecting the small bird.

18,038 Posts
Detroit Audubon Society Conservation Conference

Saturday, April 1, 9:00 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. (registration begins at 8:30 a.m.)
at the Detroit Zoo, Ford Education Center (Woodward at I-696, in Royal Oak)

**Enter through Administrative Gate #4. **

Ivory-billed Woodpecker Rediscovery by Dr. Martjan Lammertink, who has been on the search since November 2004. Highlights include presentation of video and audio evidence.

Professor Avian Guano, Bir D. (a.k.a. Denny Olson) is also expected to drop in with his legendary mimicry of bird songs and goofy stories. Be sure to bring your children.

Zoo staff will update us on elephants Winky and Wanda and about their efforts to help recover the Piping Plover, Massasauga Rattlesnake and the Karner Blue Butterfly in Michigan.

Celebrate the earth musically by listening and singing-a-long with Julie Beutel. Bid in our Silent Auction. You’ll also be able to view the 40th Annual Wildlife Photographer of the Year Exhibit sponsored by the London Natural History Museum and BBC Wildlife magazine.

Enter through Administrative Gate #4.

267 Posts
Woodpecker Racket?
Thursday, February 02, 2006
By Steven Milloy

Last year’s reported sighting in eastern Arkansas of an Ivory-billed Woodpecker, long thought to be extinct, raised the hopes of bird-watchers everywhere.
But now a prominent bird expert has cast serious doubt on the report, characterizing it as "faith-based" ornithology and "a disservice to science."
Writing in the ornithology journal
The Auk (January 2006), Florida Gulf Coast University ornithologist Jerome A. Jackson criticized the "evidence" put forth to support the conclusion that the Woodpecker wasn’t extinct after all — including a four-second video of an alleged sighting which garnered widespread media attention; several other anecdotal sightings; and acoustic signals purported to be vocalization and raps from the Woodpecker.
News of the alleged Woodpecker sighting caught on video was first released in late-April 2005 in
ScienceExpress, an online component of Science magazine. The full report subsequently appeared in the June 3 issue of Science.
"While the world rejoiced, my elation turned to disbelief," wrote Jackson. "I had seen the ‘confirming’ video in the news releases and recognized its poor quality, but I had believed [anyway]," he continued.
"Then I saw [a still image] and seriously doubted that this evidence was confirmation of an Ivory-billed Woodpecker. Even a cursory comparison of this figure with [photographs and illustrations of real Ivory-billed Woodpeckers] shows that the white on the wing of the bird… is too extensive to be that of an Ivory-billed Woodpecker," Jackson wrote.
Jackson dismissed the other unverified sightings with, "I do not question the sincerity, integrity or passion of these observers [but] we simply cannot know what they saw." The researchers who claimed to video the Ivory-billed Woodpecker later admitted that the acoustic information "while interesting, does not reach the level we require for proof."
Jackson went on to conclude that, "My opinion is that the bird in the [video] is a normal Pileated Woodpecker… Others have independently come to the same conclusion, and publication of independent analyses may be forthcoming."
Jackson isn’t some inveterate or knee-jerk skeptic with respect to the possibility of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker’s existence. In fact, in 1986 when the
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service convened a panel to "officially" declare the Woodpecker extinct, Jackson argued that "it was unreasonable to declare the species extinct without making a serious effort to find it."
Only time will tell whether the Ivory-billed Woodpecker is, in fact, extinct, but one thing is certain — the fanfare announcing these now-suspect sightings was way overblown. And it’s worth noting that the beneficiaries of all this hoopla were also the ones behind it.
The search to "find" the Ivory-billed Woodpecker was organized, supported and launched by the Nature Conservancy. The subsequent "find" was announced and widely publicized by the Nature Conservancy. Now, according to Jackson’s article, it seems the Nature Conservancy also stands to benefit substantially from its own "discovery," possibly to the tune of $10.2 million federal dollars and hundreds of thousands of acres in Arkansas.
To Jackson’s dismay, this money, which had originally been designated for other ongoing endangered species projects, has now been diverted into a "recovery" effort for the apparently-still-extinct Ivory-billed Woodpecker — involving none other than the Nature Conservancy, a private "nonprofit" group that uses land acquisition to advance its self-proclaimed "conservation" agenda.
But a series of Washington Post articles in May 2003 exposed the Nature Conservancy, the world’s richest environmental group with $3 billion in assets, as more than just a "land bank." In the past it has also acted as a broker of too-sweet-to-be-true land and business deals for wealthy insiders and corporate supporters, often at taxpayer expense.
In one scheme reported by the Post, "…the Conservancy bought raw land, attached development restrictions and then resold the land to state trustees and other supporters at greatly reduced prices. Buyers then voluntarily gave the Conservancy charitable contributions roughly equivalent to the discounts, sums that were written off from the buyers' federal income taxes. The deals generally allowed the buyers to build homes on the land."
What’s all this got to do with the Ivory-billed Woodpecker?
The Nature Conservancy says on its web site that it "has helped protect more than 120,000 acres of [eastern Arkansas forests], and is now aiming to conserve and restore an additional 200,000 acres of forest – vital habitat for the ivory-billed woodpecker…"
Given that the land acquisition is made possible with taxpayer dollars and tax breaks — for who knows what ultimate purposes - you can almost hear the Nature Conservancy laughing like that other fictional woodpecker, Woody Woodpecker, all the way to the bank.
A final note on this saga concerns the reported sightings that were rushed to publication by the journal Science — the same journal that rushed to publication last year’s faked South Korean stem cell studies, and a faked 1997 Tulane University study on environmental chemicals.
While there’s no evidence that the Ivory-billed Woodpecker study was faked, Jackson’s characterization of the report as wishful-thinking certainly doesn’t say much for Science’s peer review process — intended as a safeguard against the publication of unsubstantiated scientific claims and junk science.
Science has enjoyed the reputation of a preeminent journal. But over the last decade, it seems to have developed the print-first-ask-questions-later tendencies usually associated with tabloid publications.
It would be terrific if the Ivory-billed Woodpecker weren’t extinct — but we’ll need better evidence than just four seconds of blurry video hawked by special interests.
Steven Milloy publishes
JunkScience.com and CSRwatch.com, and is an adjunct scholar at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

18,038 Posts
Birders Find No New Evidence of Woodpecker

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — With news Thursday that search teams had found no new confirmation of the ivory-billed woodpecker's existence in the swamps of eastern Arkansas, wildlife managers said there was no longer a reason to limit public access to the region.

"Based on the information coming from the search and research that we have done, I feel there is no need any longer to limit public use within this area," said Dennis Widner, manager of the Cache River Wildlife Management Area where the bird was first spotted in 2004.


342 Posts
one of the guys that co-rediscoverd them is going to be at the kirtland warbler festivle this weekend doing some sort of seminar
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