Despite the lack of a confirmed sighting of an Ivory-billed Woodpecker after three years of searching, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) says recovery efforts for the bird through 2010 may cost $27,785,000. The amount was announced in a just-published 182-page draft recovery plan.
The plan's lead author is Jon Andrew, FWS's Ivory-bill recovery team leader and chief of the Southeast regional National Wildlife Refuge System. Other authors include Ivory-bill expert Jerry Jackson, and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's Martjan Lammertink and Ken Rosenberg. FWS announced two years ago that the draft would be available last September and the final recovery plan would be published this past June. The plan is open for public comment through October 22.
It identifies nine recovery actions and estimates the cost of each action per fiscal year. The price tags range from $28,000 for "population and habitat modeling at various spatial scales to facilitate survey efforts and to inform potential management actions" to more than $16 million for "management of rediscovered populations to protect occupied habitat and individuals, as well as to provide for management of forested habitats to aid in achieving recovery."
The document frequently admits that little is known about the woodpecker. "Habitat management and land protection efforts are important," it states, "but, at this early stage of recovery, the current focus is on learning more about where birds persist and then to examine those habitats to reveal ways in which specific conservation actions could be developed."
The plan also says that the bird's "recovery priority number" is 5 on a scale of 1-18, "indicating a high degree of threat and a low recovery potential." In February 2006, we reported that the number was 18, the lowest rank in FWS's priority system.
Approximately 50 pages of the plan are devoted to detailed state-by-state descriptions of historical Ivory-bill ranges, sightings since 1944, and areas with good habitat that should be searched. Surprisingly, the Florida section makes no mention of Ivory-bill reports from the Choctawhatchee River. FWS financially supported a search along the river this year. (Less than two weeks ago, Auburn University's Geoff Hill and Brian Rolek presented results from the Choctawhatchee search at the American Ornithologists' Union meeting in Laramie, Wyoming.)
According to a press release, comments will be accepted by mail or hand-delivery at the service’s Lafayette Field Office at 646 Cajundome Boulevard, Suite 400, Lafayette, Louisiana, 70506, or faxed to 337-291-3139. Comments also may be provided by email to email@example.com. — M.M.