U.S. Fish and Wildlife re­lease re­cov­ery plan for wood­pecker

Re­search would cost mil­lions of dol­lars

The Covington News - - AGRICULTURE & OUTDOORS - By Jill Ze­man

LIT­TLE ROCK, Ark. — Fed­eral wildlife of­fi­cials say it’s worth mil­lions of dol­lars to re­search the sus­pected habi­tat of the ivory-billed wood­pecker, de­spite con­flict­ing views on whether the elu­sive bird even ex­ists in the swamps of east Arkansas.

“There’s enough out there that we’ve got to keep search­ing,” said Jeff Flem­ing, a spokesman for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Ser­vice. “It’d be ir­re­spon­si­ble not to.”

The agency this week re­leased a 185-page draft plan aimed at pre­vent­ing the ex­tinc­tion of the bird. The draft plan, which is open for pub­lic com­ment un­til Oct. 22, rec­om­mends spend­ing more than $27 mil­lion in fed­eral dol­lars on re­cov­ery ef­forts for the wood­pecker.

“The op­por­tu­nity to re­cover this icon of the or­nitho­log­i­cal world can­not and should not be passed over,” said Sam Hamil­ton, re­gional di­rec­tor for the ser­vice’s South­east Re­gion and leader of the re­cov­ery team.

Much of the re­cov­ery work has been hap­pen­ing in Arkansas, but projects are also un­der way in Florida, Louisiana, South Carolina and Texas, Flem­ing said.

The plan out­lines habi­tat needs and fu­ture con­ser­va­tion ef­forts aimed at pro­tect­ing the wood­pecker. The plan was drafted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Ser­vice, the Univer­sity of Ge­or­gia, Florida Gulf Coast Univer­sity, the Cornell Lab­o­ra­tory of Or­nithol­ogy, the Louisiana De­part­ment of Wildlife and Fish­eries and the Arkansas Nat­u­ral Her­itage Foun­da­tion.

The wood­pecker, thought to al­ready be ex­tinct, was re­port­edly spot­ted by Cornell Uni- ver­sity re­searchers in 2004 in an east­ern Arkansas swamp. Re­searchers and bird­ers have since con­verged on the Cache River Wildlife Man­age­ment Area hop­ing to spot the huge bird and hear its dis­tinct dou­ble-rap­ping.

Re­searchers have also re­ported spot­ting an ivory-billed wood­pecker in a north­west Florida swamp.

“The ser­vice works with its part­ners to pre­vent ex­tinc­tion of species like the ivory-billed wood­pecker and that is the op­por­tu­nity be­fore us now,” Hamil­ton said. “We want to en­cour­age in­ter­ested cit­i­zens, agen­cies and con­ser­va­tion or­ga­ni­za­tions to par­tic­i­pate in the com­ment pe­riod.”

The pro­posed re­cov­ery ef­forts in­clude re­search on the bird’s sta­tus and ecol­ogy, de­vel­op­ing new sur­vey­ing tech­niques, con­duct­ing for­est in­ven­to­ries in the Cache and White River basins and de­vel­op­ing pop­u­la­tion es­ti­mates, among other mea­sures.

Flem­ing said re­cov­ery ef­forts are worth the money even though some have ques­tioned whether the ivory-billed wood­pecker sight­ings were le­git­i­mate.

“I would char­ac­ter­ize it as tan­ta­liz­ing ev­i­dence,” he said. “We don’t have an ac­tive nest right now, we don’t have an 8 by 10 glossy to look at ev­ery day. ... But we’re learn­ing a lot about the bird’s habi­tat needs and things like that. We’re op­ti­mistic.”

Wamp touts TVA role in nu­clear waste project

SPRING CITY, Tenn. — The Ten­nessee Val­ley Author­ity is vy­ing to host a na­tional demon­stra­tion project for re­cy­cling spent nu­clear fuel, U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp said Thurs­day.

“I be­lieve TVA is go­ing to ... prove to our coun­try that you can deal with the No. 1 li­a­bil­ity as­so­ci­ated with the nu­clear in­dus­try and that is the waste,” the Chat­tanooga Repub­li­can said af­ter tour­ing an un­fin­ished Watts Bar Nu­clear Plant re­ac­tor that TVA in­tends to com­plete in five years.

Amer­ica needs nu­clear power to meet grow­ing de­mand for en­ergy and power sources that don’t foul the air like coal-fired plants, he said.

But the coun­try will never be able to find enough places to bury the ra­dioac­tive waste al­ready pil­ing up at nu­clear plants, in­clud­ing TVA’s, he said.

“You can’t build Yucca Moun­tain af­ter Yucca Moun­tain af­ter Yucca Moun­tain,” Wamp said of the long-stalled Ne­vada site for nu­clear waste. “As a mat­ter of fact, we are prov­ing it is kind of hard to build the first one.”

But if an an­tic­i­pated nu­clear re­vival de­vel­ops as pre­dicted, the United States will need six more Yucca Moun­tains over the next 50 years, said Wamp, a mem­ber of the House En­ergy and Wa­ter Ap­pro­pri­a­tions Sub­com­mit­tee.

“So let’s look at what the Bri­tish and French do and prove to our coun­try that you can close the fuel cy­cle. Re­pro­cess the waste back into en­ergy — safely and ef­fi­ciently,” he said.

Wamp is con­fi­dent that re­pro­cess­ing works. He said he’s seen it work on a small scale at the Oak Ridge Na­tional Lab­o­ra­tory, the coun­try’s top en­ergy lab­o­ra­tory.

Re­pro­cess­ing the waste to ex­tract still-us­able ura­nium could help re­cy­cle about 80 per­cent into new fuel. Of­fi­cials es­ti­mate the re­main­der would still have to be buried at a fa­cil­ity like Yucca Moun­tain.

To­ward that end, the De­part­ment of En­ergy is re­view­ing pro­pos­als from four in­dus­try groups for a nu­clear fuel re­pro­cess­ing pilot project un­der the Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion’s Global Nu­clear En­ergy Part­ner­ship ini­tia­tive.

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