Wildlife Commission Receives Federal Grant to Conserve Red-Cockaded Woodpeckers

By / Fishing / Wednesday, 17 September 2014 00:00

The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission has received $1.1 million in federal funds to conserve red-cockaded woodpeckers and longleaf pine habitat in the Sandhills region. The grant came to the Wildlife Commission as part of $35 million in grants from the U.S. Department of Interior to conserve plants and animals in 20 states across the U.S., as announced yesterday by U.S. Secretary of Interior Sally Jewell. The Wildlife Commission will use its grant to acquire two land tracts in the Sandhills — the James and Sassafras tracts, which comprise 1,761 acres in eastern Richmond and northeastern Scotland counties. Acquisition and management of the James and Sassafras tracts will allow Wildlife Commission biologists to conserve the federally endangered red-cockaded woodpecker. These tracts will provide buffers and connect habitat between intact longleaf pine forests on previously unconnected 5,900- and 21,000-acre blocks of the Sandhills Game Lands, as well as connect two other 500-acre blocks of the game lands.
“This project improves connectivity in key red-cockaded woodpecker corridors at local and landscape scales,” said Kacy Cook, land conservation biologist with the Wildlife Commission’s Division of Wildlife Management. “Red-cockaded woodpecker breeding clusters are active on unconnected blocks of the Sandhills Game Land in the project area, and they travel between these blocks. In addition, there are three federally endangered plant species occurring in separate populations in the Sandhills that need to be connected. This project will accomplish these goals.”
Acquisition, restoration and protection of these tracts not only will conserve woodpeckers and their habitat, but they also will buffer the development around Fort Bragg and Camp Mackall, which helps the military by protecting training sites and reducing conflicts with military activities in the area.
In addition to working with Fort Bragg and Camp Mackall, the Wildlife Commission will use the grants to work with conservation groups, other government agencies and private land owners to enhance red-cockaded woodpecker populations in the Sandhills.
The red-cockaded woodpecker (RCW) is known for excavating cavities in longleaf pines for nesting and roosting. It became endangered after native pine forests were cut to develop land. “This grant will achieve multiple objectives by conserving RCW habitat and protecting military training opportunities that are key to the state and local economies,” said Wildlife Commission Chief Deputy Director Mallory Martin. “These activities help ensure that North Carolina remains the most military-friendly state in the nation.”

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