A rare bird in Georgia is making enough of a comeback for the Trump administration to propose moving it off the federal endangered species list for the first time in 50 years. The red-cockaded woodpecker's most distinguishing feature is a black cap and nape that encircle large white … Special protections are proposed for the bird as it loses its endangered status, including prohibitions on harming trees where the woodpecker has painstakingly dug out cavities, harassing the birds during breeding season and the use of insecticides near where the birds are nesting and roosting. Due in large part to long-term conservation efforts like those undertaken on Eglin Air Force Base, the U.S. © 2020 www.nwfdailynews.com. The birds also live in what are known as clusters. "Through the years, the Jackson Guard staff worked diligently to foster a favorable environment for the diminished RCW population to grow," Spaits said. "Audubon loves nothing more than to celebrate a success story under the Endangered Species Act, and by all rights, we have seen tremendous improvements in Red-cockaded Woodpecker (RCW) and longleaf habitat management," said Julie Wraithmell, executive director of the Audubon Society of Florida. They have become locally extinct (extirpated) in Kentucky, Maryland, … But as sea levels rise, septic systems are running out of space and compromised septic systems can pollute nearby waterways. Commercial timber harvesting, the turpentine industry, urbanization and agriculture also contributed to the near disappearance of the bird’s favored centuries-old trees. Major General Patrick J. Donahoe, commanding General of the U.S. Army Maneuver Center of Excellence at Fort Benning, said military installations often remain “biological time capsules” as the land around them is developed. Of the 124 current red-cockaded woodpecker demographic populations, conservation partners have committed to continuing management into the foreseeable future for 76 populations. Gen. Scott Cain, commander of Eglin's 96th Test Wing, said of the proposed downlisting. In Northwest Florida they thrive in longleaf pine forests where they nest in trees averaging 60 to 100 years old, according to the Nature Conservancy. A virtual public hearing has been scheduled for Tuesday, Dec. 1, a week before the Fish and Wildlife Service terminates a 60-day open comment period and begins deliberating the downlisting decision. Fort Benning has also donated some of its resident birds to help build up the population in other areas. All rights reserved. Red-cockaded woodpeckers (Dryobates borealis) are listed as endangered in the United States under the Endangered Species Act.About the size of a northern cardinal, the red-cockaded woodpecker has very narrow habitat requirements. The areas on which the management commitments will be implemented are well-distributed across the range of the species, including populations in all 13 of the ecoregions. STATUS: Endangered. Fish and Wildlife Service. Caption "It is accurate to state that the mission of the Eglin Test and Training Range would be severely restricted without the persistent efforts of Eglin’s Natural Resources Section personnel to elevate the RCW status from near extinction, to endangered, and now to threatened status," Spaits said. Secretary of the Interior David L. Bernhardt says the proposal to reclassify the red-cockaded woodpecker represents a change in how the agency deals with regulation. The agency in September proposed "downlisting" the bird from endangered to threatened under the Endangered Species Act. “While a small group of soldiers may occasionally visit the training areas here, it is the animal life and plant life that really own it,” Donahoe said. It was listed as endangered in 1969, not long before the Endangered Species Act of 1973 mandated wildlife conservation efforts on federal lands around the country. In 1994, there were estimated to be 184 red cockaded woodpecker family clusters on Eglin. The agency is set to consider granting a relaxed wastewater permit for a textile mill in southeast Georgia that was at the center of the state’s largest fish kill on record in 2011. Donahoe said the post’s conservation efforts cost about $1 million a year. About a quarter of the woodpeckers' total population lives in Florida, and federal conservation efforts within the state have been largely focused on the Eglin Air Force Base reservation and in Apalachicola National Forest. DESCRIPTION: About the size of the common cardinal, the red-cockaded woodpecker is approximately 7 inches long (18 to 20 centimeters), with a wingspan of about 15 inches (35 to 38 centimeters). Climate change is making that problem worse. Recreating the bird's habitat was followed by a comprehensive population monitoring initiative to document the progress of the program, Spaits said. "The entire team worked to improve their habitat through use of prescribed fire and forestry management activities, and they created artificial nesting and roosting cavities.". “We are looking forward to that next shared milestone – the day when the red-cockaded woodpecker has flourished to the point where we can remove them entirely from the list of endangered species due to recovery, as we have done so with the bald eagle, the American alligator and so many more,” U.S. Some, however, are leery of the planned move by the Fish and Wildlife Service, particularly in light of the damage done in the area of the Apalachicola National Forest by Hurricane Michael in 2018. Two decades ago, Fort Benning reported about 153. When efforts to save the red cockaded woodpecker were initiated, it was estimated there were fewer than 4,000 clusters of the birds, the Fish and Wildlife Service said in its news release. "With increasing storm intensity and frequency, how will RCW habitat fare in the future?" she asked. Septic systems rely on having plenty of soil and space to filter out the harmful materials. Georgia Public Radio® GPTV®, Citizens Question Relaxed Permit Proposal For Ogeechee River Milliken Plant, Aging Septic, Rising Seas Threaten Georgia Waterways, How A Small Georgia Town Became Ground Zero For A Landfill Collapse. Federally listed endangered and threatened animal species that can be found on Eglin Air Force Base: Source - Corvias property management firm. Fish and Wildlife Service. "All of these efforts paid off in 2009, when Eglin exceeded the population goal as set by the USFWS in the species recovery plan; more than doubling the numbers of breeding pairs," he said. 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