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George L. Scheil
Raytown, MO.
----- Original Message ----- 
From: <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>; <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Friday, May 06, 2005 1:13 PM
Subject: Fw: The Rediscovery of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker


>
>
>
>
> ===================================
> Ronald L. Bell
> Refuge Manager, Squaw Creek NWR
> Telephone:  660/442-5754, ext. 13
> Fax:  660/442-5248

>                                               Subject: The Rediscovery of 
> the Ivory-billed Woodpecker
>
>
>
>
> I can honestly say I never truly believed that I would be writing an 
> e-mail
> with the subject line above.  Not that I haven't wished it were true or
> imagined it being true.  Over the years there have been many reports and
> rumors.  Among these reports, tantalizing sighting reports, some photos of
> questionable origin and even a feather-also of questionable origin.  Until
> recently however no really firm evidence that Ivory-bills still existed.
> In addition to reports from the Southeast there was documentation from
> eastern Cuba in the late 1980s that made me think about cloning and
> translocation.  Those reports and the habitat in Cuba faded over the years
> and now look bleak.  Hopes were rekindled again with the sightings in the
> Pearl River region of Louisiana in 1999 which also failed to result in
> confirmation.  It was in this context of excitement followed by
> disappointment, raised hopes followed by dashed hopes that I first heard 
> of
> the possibility of Ivory-bills in Arkansas.  This was in February of 2004
> with what seemed to be yet another unsubstantiated rumor of a sighting by 
> a
> kayaker.  The siting occurred on Cache River National Wildlife Refuge in
> central Arkansas in a stretch of habitat that very well could have been
> lost forever had it not become a part of the Refuge System.  I consider 
> the
> fact that the birds have reappeared first on refuge land as significant 
> and
> a source of great pride.
>
> At first I filed away the report of a "pileated woodpecker with white in
> the wrong place" as another rumor.  Later, I learned that Tim Gallagher of
> the Cornell University Laboratory of Ornithology and his fellow Ivory-bill
> searcher Bobby Harrison had visited the same site days later.  They also
> saw the bird and the plans to document the occurrence went into high gear.
> I visited Cornell a few weeks later  to hear the story-or at least the
> still unconfirmed report.  Although short of documented proof this report
> seemed very believable and I began to hope again.  In the meantime we
> agreed to keep things quiet so that Cornell and their search team could do
> their work without all the noise that would result from the announcement 
> of
> another report of Ivory-bills.  Over the rest of that breeding season and
> through another one in 2004-2005 the search team logged over 12,000 hours
> of search time under a special use permit issued by Refuge Manager Dennis
> Widner.  A few people were brought into a small internal planning group to
> think about what we might do if the reports came true.  All of this was
> code-named Project Elvis.  We went as far as we thought we could with our
> planning and considered what this might mean for all kinds of land use,
> public use, Endangered Species Act compliance and so on.  We had about run
> our course and were settling into an extended period of searching but not
> confirming.  It was not until early April of this year that we 
> participated
> in a meeting in Little Rock at which we viewed the summary of evidence
> presented by Cornell and The Nature Conservancy and had to conclude that 
> at
> least one bird still lived.  Needless to say I was shocked.  I could 
> hardly
> believe what I was seeing and felt from the second I saw the video that
> what I was looking at was not a Pileated.  Was I really looking at video 
> of
> an Ivory-bill.  It took a little time to accept the fact that the birds
> actually still existed after so many false hopes.
>
> The plan at the time was to keep things quiet until the findings were
> published in Science in the middle of May.  However, as more people were
> briefed in preparation of the announcement - word got out and the
> announcement date was moved up to April 28.  You all have seen the press
> releases by now I am sure.
>
> I think I am still in the acceptance phase.  It has been an emotional
> experience for me and for many others involved in the work to date as well
> as those who simply have an interest in bird conservation.  Perhaps it is
> just coincidence but the optimist in me has brought me to the conclusion
> that we may be entering a new time in the conservation of our natural
> resources.  About the same time all of the Ivory-bill excitement was
> occurring I have told of the rediscovery of supposedly extinct butterflies
> in the Florida Keys,  also, native snails in Alabama at Cahaba River NWR
> have turned up after having been written off.  Back in Arkansas in the
> vicinity of the Ivory-bill sightings, Swallow-tailed Kites have returned 
> to
> nest after an absence of many decades.  Are these signs of healing
> ecosystems?   The forest continues to recover after having going through 
> an
> ecological bottleneck some decades ago.  It is at least possible that some
> of the remnants that were saved and have continued to grow back to a
> healthier state are now providing us with the benefits of some far sighted
> conservationists.  The dividend in this case is in the form of Ivory-bills
> and Swallow-tailed Kites but I'd like to think it is also in snails and
> butterflies and many other species that are perhaps not yet lost.
>
> In our enthusiasm over the rediscovery of the Lord God bird I have been
> talked to birding friends and think again that perhaps Bachman's Warblers
> are out there somewhere and perhaps there are still some Eskimo Curlews
> making their circle migrations from tundra to tropic and back again.   At
> this point these possibilities seem not nearly as far-fetched as they 
> might
> have a few months ago.  There may be a lesson in that.  Maybe, as John
> Fitzpatrick at Cornell has suggested we should assume they do exist and
> manage accordingly.  If the birds are present then we will have done right
> by them.  If it turns out they are not, we will more than likely have done
> right by the ecosystem they once inhabited and will have benefited those
> species which do remain.
>
> I'm not sure where this message leaves us but I feel a little better for
> having written something.  There is cause for hope if something like this
> can happen.  I should have known that was true when the Red Sox beat the
> Yankees after being down 3 games to 0 and then won the World Series.  In
> retrospect that was a sign that almost anything is possible.
>
>
>
>
>
>
> Jon Andrew, Chief,
> National Wildlife Refuge System
> Southeast Region
> U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
> Suite 420
> 1875 Century Blvd.
> Atlanta, GA  30345
> 404/679-7152, fax 404/679-4179
> 

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