Resource ChallengeThe red-cockaded woodpecker, an endangered species native to southeastern pine forests, lives on many military bases and on privately-owned lands, presenting challenges to both groups of landowners. For the military, the challenge is to continue to train troops effectively while meeting the requirements of the Endangered Species Act. For private landowners, the challenge is similar: forest management activities often create more woodpecker habitat—and more woodpeckers—which potentially subjects the landowner to increased regulation of his or her land. Also, if private landowners do not manage their forest land in ways that help the woodpecker, military bases are likely to support a growing percentage of an ever- declining woodpecker population in many areas.
Examples of Key PartnersU.S. Army, USDI Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), Environmental Defense, state natural resource departments, and more than 200 landowners.
Results and AccomplishmentsStarting in the Sandhills region of North Carolina around Fort Bragg, FWS introduced the concept of endangered species “Safe Harbor Agreements.” Under these agreements, landowners who initiate forest management activities designed to improve conditions for the woodpecker, such as prescribed burning, selective tree harvests, and installing artifi cial nesting and roosting cavities, are assured of no new regulatory restrictions under the Endangered Species Act. Fort Bragg helped the FWS improve its outreach to landowners, and Environmental Defense helped design the program.
Today, 91 Sandhills-area landowners, including owners of golf courses, horse farms, woodlots, school land, a girl scout camp, and residential properties, participate in the program. The Sandhills project became a model for similar efforts in South Carolina, Georgia, Texas, Virginia, and Louisiana. Overall, more than 600,000 acres of privately-owned forest land are now enrolled in Safe Harbor Agreements for the red-cockaded woodpecker.
Complementing the results of Safe Harbor Agreements were the Army’s use of compatible use buffers to ensure that land
development around its bases, and the associated loss of habitat, did not preclude training opportunities on base. The Army works with states and/or conservation groups, enabling those partners to purchase land or easements from willing landowners. Army buffers have protected 44,751 acres in fi ve states. In the Sandhills region, The Nature Conservancy, the Sandhills Ecological Institute, and others have helped protect 9,165 acres in perpetuity for redcockaded
After decades of decline on private lands throughout the Southeast, the woodpecker population is now increasing in several areas as a result of management by private landowners.