We don't get very much good news from the environmental front these days. This is very good news.
The ivory-billed woodpecker, long feared extinct, has been seen in a remote part of Arkansas 60 years after the last confirmed U.S. sighting, ornithologists said on Thursday.
Several experts have spotted and heard an ivory-billed woodpecker in a protected forest in eastern Arkansas near the last reliable sighting of the bird in 1944, and one was captured on video last year.
"The ivory-billed woodpecker (Campephilus principalis), long suspected to be extinct, has been rediscovered in the 'Big Woods' region of eastern Arkansas," researchers wrote in the journal Science in an article hastily prepared for release.
The survival of ivory bills is closely tied to that of the deep, swampy forests it lived in. "Its disappearance coincided with systematic annihilation of virgin tall forests across southeastern United States between 1880 and the 1940s," the researchers wrote.
But the discovery may help get protection for a larger area of the Big Woods, the nonprofit Nature Conservancy said.
Fitzpatrick said some of the hardwood trees the birds depend on have grown back after logging in the early part of the 20th century. "The conditions are only going to get better," he said.
"In concept, at least, it is possible the worst for this bird has passed. Proper management could let it thrive again," [John Fitzpatrick of the Cornell University Laboratory of Ornithology] added.
On that last point, I'd be a little more guarded in my optimism than Dr. Fitzpatrick. To this administration, "proper management" means "let one of our buddies log the forest for a song." Still, maybe they'll be kept too busy trying to save Tom DeLay's sorry butt to do too much damage.