RALEIGH, N.C. (April 30, 2018) — With the ceremonial planting of longleaf pine seedlings today, a new partnership has sprouted that will manage a small black-and-white woodpecker and its habitat while allowing the Marine Corps to enhance its operational and training opportunities on Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C.
The Red-Cockaded Woodpecker (RCW) Recovery and Sustainment Program (RASP) partnership held a ground-breaking ceremony in Sneads Ferry today to celebrate the implementation of long-term management plans on the Stones Creek Game Land and on the nearby Bear Garden tract of the Holly Shelter Game Land that will create new habitat for RCW’s with the goal of establishing 60 active RCW clusters outside the boundaries of the military installation. The Marine Corps’ RCW recovery goal is administered under the Endangered Species Act.
“This is exactly how things should work,” said Congressman Walter Jones. “All of these agencies and the U.S. Marine Corps working together to protect an endangered species is a wonderful thing.”
Along with the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, which will lead the management effort, the partnership includes the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Marine Corps Installations East at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, the U.S. Department of the Navy and the Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Mid-Atlantic.
The Marine Corps and the Office of the Secretary of Defense funded a perpetual endowment fund, which will be managed by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, to cover the costs of RCW management on the game lands. The Wildlife Commission will conduct short and long-term management activities to establish and conserve longleaf pine forest habitat essential for RCW recovery. Commission biologists will manage the properties to RCW habitat standards in order to establish 60 active RCW clusters off base. The Marine Corps will continue its RCW conservation and recovery efforts on base as well.
Partners planted the seedlings to symbolize their commitment to restore and conserve longleaf pine forests found on the game lands. These forests were likely once home to the RCW and, like the woodpecker, have disappeared from much of their historical range. The RASP has also secured conservation easements protecting woodpecker habitat on nearly 2,726 acres of the Stones Creek Game Land, which will potentially support 12 RCW clusters, and 12,269 acres of the Bear Garden tract on the Holly Shelter Game Land in Pender County. The Bear Garden tract will potentially support 48 RCW clusters. By securing RCW clusters on these two properties, MCB Camp Lejeune will be able to better maximize training and operational opportunities onboard the installation, where some land has been previously restricted for habitat protection.
Unlike other woodpecker species, the RCW is the only woodpecker that excavates nest cavities in live trees. It is a highly social bird that lives in family groups year-round. Family groups consist of a breeding male and female and one or more helpers, which are typically male offspring from previous years’ broods. These family groups live in an aggregate of cavity trees called “clusters,” and they typically prefer longleaf pines.
“Their habitat requirements of old-growth pine forests have made red-cockaded woodpeckers vulnerable to extirpation in several states, including North Carolina, where they are now found mainly on federal lands and military bases,” said Wildlife Commission Executive Director Gordon Myers. “This partnership is a great example of the military and wildlife agencies working collaboratively to ensure the viability of the red-cockaded woodpecker in perpetuity while removing barriers for military readiness and maximizing resources and opportunities.”
Download a high-resolution version of the image above. Please credit Melissa McGaw/NCWRC