Federal and state representatives praised a partnership focusing on the birds and the trees.

The red-cockaded woodpecker and longleaf pine trees, the protected and endangered bird’s preferred habitat, shared the stage with Deputy Commander of Marine Corps Installations East and Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune Col. Michael L. Scalise, U.S. Congressman Walter Jones and representatives from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services, N.C Wildlife Resources Commission and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation Monday morning in Sneads Ferry.

The gathering at the entrance to the Stones Creek Game Land was a culmination of years of planning between various government agencies and Camp Lejeune to expand the habitat to the RCW capped off with celebratory planting of five long leaf pine saplings.

“This is a prime example of how collaboration between the base and outside organizations such as the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services can lead to the successful coexistence of two competing species: Our warriors who need maneuvering areas and the RCWs, who depend in old growth forests for their survival,” said Scalise.

Scalise cited historical data that indicated only 32 clusters of RCWs were present on base in 1986. That number has grown to 128 clusters, according to Scalise.

According to the Red-Cockaded Woodpecker Recovery and Sustainment Program, “the long-term management plan will be implemented on the Stones Creek Game land and the Bear Garden tract. The 2,726-acre Stones Creek easement will support 12 RCW clusters and the 12,269-acre Bear Garden tract will support 48 RCW clusters.”

These additional clusters will help Camp Lejeune achieve its recovery goal of 173 RCW clusters.

The partnership will protect the woodpecker and the environment while allowing Marines to train, Jones said.

According to the USFWS, the clusters may include one to 20 or more cavity trees on three to 60 acres. The average cluster is about 10 acres. Cavity trees that are being actively used have numerous, small resin wells which exude sap. The birds keep the sap flowing apparently as a cavity defense mechanism against rat snakes and possibly other predators. The typical territory for a group ranges from about 125 to 200 acres, but observers have reported territories running from a low of around 60 acres, to an upper extreme of more than 600 acres. The size of a particular territory is related to both habitat suitability and population density.


Reporter Mike McHugh can be reached at 910-218-8455 or email mike.mchugh@jdnews.com.