U.S. Fish and Wildlife release recovery plan for woodpecker
Research would cost millions of dollars
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.