BAINBRIDGE, Ga. – An endangered bird is receiving emergency help in Georgia following Hurricane Michael, thanks to a timely grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.
Pine woodlands on what is now the state-owned Silver Lake Wildlife Management Area have long been a refuge for red-cockaded woodpeckers, federally listed as endangered since 1970. But as in much of the Florida Panhandle and southwest Georgia, neither this 9,200-acre WMA along Lake Seminole nor the small woodpeckers best known for carving nests in live pines were spared when Michael hit in October.
Winds topping 116 mph wiped out almost half of Silver Lake’s 272 trees with red-cockaded woodpecker nest cavities. The hurricane also left behind acres of downed trees and limbs that threaten the Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ ability to conduct prescribed fires to restore the bird’s habitats.
“Our biologists quickly assessed the situation and developed a plan to stabilize the population by creating new nest cavities and reducing woody debris to protect remaining trees during prescribed burns,” said Dr. Jon Ambrose, chief of DNR’s Wildlife Conservation Section. “But we did not have the resources to fully implement the plan.”
That’s when the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation stepped in. Founded by Congress to connect federal, corporate and other partners for conservation, the organization known as NFWF provided nearly $100,000 to restore habitat and steady Silver Lake’s red-cockaded woodpecker population.
“NFWF and our partners have a long history of supporting longleaf pine habitat restoration and wildlife conservation throughout the region impacted by Hurricane Michael, including Silver Lake,” said Jeff Trandahl, executive director and CEO of the foundation. “Quick assessments by Georgia’s Department of Natural Resources helped us and our funding partners expedite a grant to mitigate the loss of nest cavities that are