Posted by: Dan | September 24, 2006

This is just sick: Rare woodpecker sends town running for its chainsaws

… no, I’m not talking about Ivory-billed Woodpeckers.

I’m talking about Red-Cockaded Woodpeckers. As told in today’s NY Times, this endangered species, which was once abundant in the vast longleaf pine forests that stretched from New Jersey to Florida, but now numbers as few as 15,000. Now, in a small NC town, the threat of reduced exploitation of property values has induced a rash of clear-cutting of prime habitat.

BOILING SPRING LAKES, N.C., Sept. 23 (AP) — Over the past six months, landowners here have been clear-cutting thousands of trees to keep them from becoming homes for the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker.

This particular town should be ashamed of itself.



  1. Did you mention the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker? It’s supposedly been sighted in Florida.

    Evidence Suggesting that Ivory-billed Woodpeckers (Campephilus principalis) Exist in Florida
    Hill, G. E., D. J. Mennill, B. W. Rolek, T. L. Hicks, and K. A. Swiston. 2006.
    Avian Conservation and Ecology – Écologie et conservation des oiseaux 1(3): 2.

  2. I tagged it with my, which I list on the sidebar. Thanks for the original article though, I’d only heard it on NPR, and seen it in the NYTimes and a couple comments on blogs, but nothing substantial.

    It’s amazing how nature continues to suprise.

  3. ALso, the journal has a well-written editorial on the dilemna of whether to publish the paper or not:
    Nudds, Walters and VIllard

    When ACE-ÉCO received the submission by Hill et al., Evidence suggesting that Ivory-billed Woodpeckers (Campephilus principalis) exist in Florida, we faced a challenge. The Arkansas case is widely familiar (Fitzpatrick et al. 2005, Walters and Crist 2005, Fitzpatrick et al. 2006, Jackson 2006, Sibley et al. 2006) and highly politicized. One does not need to be a member of the ornithological community to appreciate that there might be further controversy generated by news of more putative observations of Ivory-billed Woodpeckers in Florida.

    Neither did it escape our attention that the notoriety associated with the paper might be good for a fledgling journal. On the other hand, especially because of its political volatility, negative fallout from publishing the article might have dire consequences. Indeed, it is legitimate to ask whether the scientific bar has been adjusted for publicity, and whether it is productive—from a scientific perspective—to publish further papers claiming to have rediscovered Ivory-billed Woodpeckers without direct, physical evidence, such as clear photographs, videos, or feathers.

    We promote ACE-ÉCO as intermediate in scope to journals with traditional emphases on basic ecology or management and conservation (Nudds and Villard 2005), and are careful nevertheless to put good science first; this implies embracing uncertainty (Villard and Nudds 2006). To deny publication of a controversial paper simply because it did not present a definitive conclusion to an ongoing debate with political consequences would only mean that we abrogated our responsibility. The subject matter is first and foremost consistent with our vision for ACE-ÉCO.

  4. On the original topic of this post, I’ve been having a drawn-out argument over on A Blog Around the Clock worth noting.

    As I see it, the Property Rights voice in the room is trying to divert blame from the residents of Boiling Lakes Spring to the Endangered Species Act, environmentalists, etc. – anyone to make the town’s residents’ actions seem more reasonable.

    Nope, those residents displayed irresponsible stewardship of the land in response to a perceived/imagined threat to property value, and cut down their town’s trees to save them – and they deserve every bit of scorn that they get.

  5. I had missed this – David on Smooth Pebbles nicely distills where officials could have managed these insipid landowners, before the town was clear-cut:

    This horror show highlights a number of weaknesses in our country’s environmental laws, not to mention a failure of education and communication. Three that stand out here are the clumsiness of the endangered species regulations and procedures, which meant that the Fish and Wildlife Service’s initial communications to the Boiling Springs landowners were vague; the history of fear-mongering about the Endangered Species Act, which had the landowners convinced in advanced that they’d use all use to their lands if a pecker ever pecked one of their trees; and the lack of any laws requiring that large or waterfront clearcuts have some forest-management rationale. This is an awfully clumsy way to do things.

    It’s still just too depressing that there are morons out there who need to be managed like children…


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