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    Red-cockaded Woodpecker at Camp Lejeune



    Courtesy Story

    Marine Corps Installations Command

    A small village made up of empty buildings and abandoned vehicles is situated among the woods of Marine Corps Base (MCB) Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, N.C. The village, named Combat Town, hosts live-action combat training for U.S. Marines and ally troops from across the globe, allowing them to simulate modern-day war exercises. Living in the trees high above the mock war zone and live-fire training is an endangered species: the red-cockaded woodpecker.

    In 1986, after the red-cockaded woodpecker was listed on the federal endangered species list, the United States Military and the Marine Corps partnered with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to develop a program that would protect the red-cockaded woodpecker. MCB Camp Lejeune boasts 90,000 acres of forest land with 36,000 acres actively managed to support the woodpecker population. It is also the only Marine Corps base that is home to this species.

    The red-cockaded woodpecker prefers to nest in live pine trees that are at least 60 years old in open and grassy areas, making Camp Lejeune a perfect habitat for the birds. The woodpecker builds their nests by hollowing out cavities in live trees. If they abandon the cavities, other animals, such as bluebirds, frogs, snakes, lizards and flying squirrels, can reuse the nests. This demonstrates the positive impact the woodpecker has on the local ecosystem.

    Once the program was established, the USFWS implemented training restrictions on the base, such as prohibiting driving through the land or conducting any training that could destroy the habitat. The restrictions posed a challenge to the base, which had to determine how to continue holding training in the protected habitat. Over time, on-base training has evolved to safely occur in forests where the woodpecker lives and ensure that the population is not only stable, but continues to grow.

    “By figuring out a way for training and the woodpecker to coexist and ensuring that both can actually thrive in the same space, we’ve helped solve that problem,” said Craig Ten Brink, Program Manager for the Threatened and Endangered Species Program at Camp Lejeune. “The Marine Corps and the military, in general, have some of the best populations of the red-cockaded woodpecker when it comes to population growth.”

    In addition to the restrictions, Camp Lejeune is required to protect the habitat, which involves intentional burning to thin the forest and creating artificial cavities by drilling holes in the trees. While the population will continue to grow and hopefully be removed from the endangered species list, required maintenance of the woods will likely continue.

    Although Camp Lejeune is the only Marine Corps base that is home to the woodpecker, they live on several Army installations, including Fort Stewart and Fort Benning. The managers of these programs work together to learn from one another and share what is working well to protect the birds and what is not.

    “The goal is for the woodpecker and our management to be invisible to the trainer, to the Marines training in the woods. And we’re on our way to getting there,” Brink said.

    When the program began there were only 33 clusters – a group of trees with cavities in them that are occupied by at least one bird. Today there are 134 active clusters. The Marine Corps aims to achieve a recovery goal of 173 clusters, which will then result in the removal of all training restrictions.



    Date Taken: 05.11.2021
    Date Posted: 06.21.2021 16:33
    Story ID: 399369
    Location: US

    Web Views: 171
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