Speech by the Director, U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service to announce: International Paper HCP

INTRODUCTION

We are here in Bainbridge to celebrate a momentous occasion. Together, the Fish and Wildlife Service and International Paper have devised innovative and biologically-sound ways to meet the needs of the red-cockaded woodpecker. The Habitat Conservation Plan we are announcing today has the potential not only to nurture the recovery of the red-cockaded woodpecker, but also to forge the future of conservation.

The rare red-cockaded woodpecker is a unique part of our natural heritage, and it is found only in the southeastern United States. In 1970, the Fish and Wildlife Service listed it as an endangered species. Today, biologists estimate there are roughly just under 5,000 family groups, or 11,000 individual red-cockaded woodpeckers left. To survive, they require living pine trees -- specifically, they prefer longleaf pine --in which to excavate their nests. And International Paper has committed to giving them the pine forest habitat they need to thrive right here in the Southlands Experiment Forest.

  • The Habitat Conservation Plan that we are approving for International Paper is the largest ever, covering 5 million acres of its southeast forest holdings.
  • Not only is it the largest plan of its kind, it is also breaking new ground. It is pioneering the concept of species mitigation banking in the southeast, of which you will be hearing about from International Paper's George O'Brien in a moment. This innovative mechanism holds the promise of increasing the Southlands Forest woodpecker population to 30 family groups.

HABITAT CONSERVATION PLANS

Habitat Conservation Plans have changed the way we go about the business of saving endangered species. These plans are blueprints for "smart growth"; they are land use plans that take into account the needs of wildlife and private landowners alike. And that is crucial when one considers that the majority of endangered species have habitat on private lands. This reality illuminates an emerging truth: we are all wildlife managers, and we must all take responsibility for the way we use our lands.

INTERNATIONAL PAPER

International Paper has a long history of taking that responsibility seriously, and being a careful steward of its forests. Indeed, International Paper is an industry leader in that regard.

  • This Habitat Conservation Plan is their second, following in the footsteps of their successful 1993 plan for the threatened Red Hills Salamander of Alabama. That plan made International Paper the first forest landowner to develop a Habitat Conservation Plan for a listed species in the southeast.
  • International Paper has taken steps to address the needs of a number of other threatened and endangered species, including:

- the Louisiana black bear;

- the sandhill crane;

- two species of pitcher plants;

- and the bald eagle.

These are only a few examples of International Paper's tradition of land stewardship.

CONCLUSION

The plan we are celebrating today builds on that tradition. By preparing this Habitat Conservation Plan, International Paper is taking the initiative and setting an example. We are all lands stewards, as I said before, and we all need to make careful choices about the spaces we share with wildlife . . . for the sake of creatures like the red-cockaded woodpecker and ultimately for the sake of our forests and ourselves.

Thank you.