Hope takes flight: the world learned just how vital these remnant woods have become recently when the Lord God Bird arose from the dead.
For generations the remaining bottomland forests of the Mississippi River and its tributaries have survived as places where trees grow large, shadows grow deep, and sinuous sinuous /sin·u·ous/ (sin´u-us) bending in and out; winding.
bending in and out; winding. rivers and streams move at a snail's pace. For those who like their landscapes bright, park-like, and manicured, these dank, vine-ensnarled woods can be uncomfortable, even unnerving un·nerve
tr.v. un·nerved, un·nerv·ing, un·nerves
1. To deprive of fortitude, strength, or firmness of purpose.
2. To make nervous or upset. . Yet for others who love wild places, there's a sense of the spiritual in the humidity, the buzz of insects, and the moaning limbs of big trees that like to live with their toes in the mud.
Over the years much of these "big woods" of legend have been reduced to the not-so-big as accessible timber fell to the sawyers and bottomlands were cleared and plowed for rice and soybean fields. The best of what's left may be the remnant bottomland hardwoods bordering the White and Cache rivers of eastern Arkansas, where fragmented strips of flood-prone woodland linger in dense stands of cypress, oak, sycamore, tupelo, hickory, sweet-gum, sugarberry sug·ar·ber·ry
Noun 1. sugarberry - deciduous shade tree with small black berries; southern United States; yields soft yellowish wood
Celtis laevigata , and cane shading creatures ranging from timber rattlers to black bears.
This bottomland forest serves as a beacon for birdlife, a refuge that ranks among the most important in the world. Millions of mallard ducks winter on the sloughs and oxbows that collect mast as winter rains cover the lowlands. Ducks gorge on the native produce of the forest and on waste grain in bordering fields. When continued clearing, channelizing, and draining threatened this remnant forest, state agencies, conservation groups, and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service rushed to create Cache River National Wildlife Refuge The Cache River National Wildlife Refuge is a 55,000 acre (223 km²) wildlife refuge in the state of Arkansas managed by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. in 1986, protecting what undisturbed tracts they could, purchasing others already converted to agriculture, and replanting trees.
Ducks and duck hunting are ingrained in both the culture and the economy of eastern Arkansas, thus duck habitat has always been worth fighting for. And throughout the process, wild acres set aside for waterfowl waterfowl, common term for members of the order Anseriformes, wild, aquatic, typically freshwater birds including ducks, geese, and screamers. In Great Britain the term is also used to designate species kept for ornamental purposes on private lakes or ponds, while in have provided much-needed native places for songbirds, small animals, and amphibians amphibians
members of the animal class Amphibia. Includes frogs, toads, newts, salamanders and cecilians all capable of living on land or in water. often overlooked in the big picture of any state/federal conservation process. The remnant big woods of the Cache may be squeezed into corridors only four or five miles wide, but they are indeed vital to indigenous species rapidly disappearing as bottomland forests are tamed by cow and plow.
The world has learned just how vital these remnant woods have become recently when the Lord God Bird Lord God Bird is a term used to describe two similar-looking woodpeckers:
1. The common European smelt (Osperus eperlanus).
2. A young or immature herring.
[Middle English sperlinge, from Old French esperlinge, of Hot Springs, Arkansas Hot Springs is the tenth most populous city in the state of Arkansas in the United States of America, the county seat of Garland County, Arkansas, and the principal city of the Hot Springs Metropolitan Statistical Area encompassing all of Garland County. , was kayaking in the Cache River Refuge's flooded timber, happy to be alone in an unspoiled place. He was lost in his thoughts when the mood was broken by the sudden presence of a ghost--a ghost bird to be exact, an ivory-billed woodpecker unseen for some 60 years and basically written off as extinct.
Sparling had his nature lover's epiphany right there in his kayak amid all the black water and cypress knees. The huge woodpecker woodpecker, common name for members of the Picidae, a large family of climbing birds found in most parts of the world. Woodpeckers typically have sharp, chisellike bills for pecking holes in tree trunks, and long, barbed, extensible tongues with which they impale came out of the shadows like Lazarus, appropriately enough staging a resurrection here amid some of the last, best remnants of prime ivory-bill habitat to be found in the continental U.S.
The sighting stirred the imaginations of ornithologists This is a list of ornithologists who have articles, in alphabetical order by surname. See also . A-D
v. star·tled, star·tling, star·tles
1. To cause to make a quick involuntary movement or start.
2. To alarm, frighten, or surprise suddenly. See Synonyms at frighten. news that the report was not a hoax: The furtive ivory-billed woodpecker was still alive. These damp woods, although fragmented and degraded, could still keep some secrets ... including the world's most magnificent woodpecker, a critter that swamp dwellers once held in such awe that they uttered Lord God upon seeing it.
The news made headlines and brought tears to the eyes of many who had mourned its passing. Suddenly the Cache, the White River Refuge system, and other remaining bottomland hardwood forests in the Arkansas Delta became a "corridor of hope," with officials in high places announcing plans to purchase, protect, and replant re·plant
To reattach an organ, limb, or other body part surgically to the original site.
An organ, limb, or body part that has been replanted. as much of the swampy woodland as possible. What the ducks had saved, the ivory-billed promised to secure forever, with threats of potential dredging, draining, and 'dozing suddenly up against an illusive il·lu·sive
il·lu yet insurmountable obstacle with the voice of a toy clarinet and a passion for timber tall, dark, and deep.
Yet while the sudden discovery of the ivory-billed woodpecker gave instant international recognition to this newly proclaimed corridor of hope, we should remember that hope existed long before anyone dreamed this rare bird was still chiseling away cellulose in search of beetle larvae Larvae, in Roman religion
Larvae: see lemures. .
State and federal wildlife agencies have invested decades and millions in duck stamp funds to keep these bottomlands from becoming as extinct as the woodpecker was thought to be. Private organizations like AMERICAN FORESTS and The Nature Conservancy were either purchasing critical acreage or seeking to reclaim salvageable acres by restoring trees.
The ivory-billed woodpecker hasn't survived in the Arkansas delta by accident. It is there because people with vision understood that bottomland hardwood forests are incubators of a rich diversity of life, whether it be feathered, furred furred
1. Bearing fur.
2. Made, covered, or trimmed with fur.
3. Wearing fur garments.
4. Covered or coated as if with fur.
5. , or scaled. And so they dedicated their intelligence, their training, their time, and their money to saving as much of this unique ecosystem as possible before commerce overwhelmed the vision and outweighed the concern.
The true heroes of the ivory-billed's discovery are the bird watchers and the bird hunters, the catfishermen and the conservationists, those who have fought for decades against the bulldozers, the bureaucrats and their dredge lines, the cut-and-run timber operations, those determined to plant another row crop when and where economics and geography wouldn't justify another furrow. Blessed, it seems, are those who have gotten their hands dirty and muscles sore by restoring native trees to their natural order, thus helping the unimaginable to fly among us once more.
Gary Lantz writes from Norman, Oklahoma.
AMERICAN FORESTS' efforts to help the Cache River watershed stretch back more than 10 years to 1994 when it planted more than 150,000 trees over two years in concert with the Arkansas Nature Conservancy. Another project, on Arkansas' Bayou Bartholomew, planted more than 300,000 trees to restore bottomland hardwoods for deer, turkeys, squirrels, and migratory birds. The trees also help stabilize sediment runoff.
It is the types of projects that restore and protect habitat that have made it possible for the ivory-billed woodpecker to survive. Without habitat, we are destined des·tine
tr.v. des·tined, des·tin·ing, des·tines
1. To determine beforehand; preordain: a foolish scheme destined to fail; a film destined to become a classic.
2. to lose many of this country's cherished and rare species. Although not all are as charismatic as the recently rediscovered ivory-billed woodpecker--the subject of much press and numerous books including The Race to Save the Lord God Bird by Phillip Hoose (pictured below)--each and every one has a place in keeping our ecosystems functioning.
AMERICAN FORESTS is helping protect other cherished species including monarch butterflies and Siberian tigers, raising funds to replant trees in hurricane-ravaged Gulf Coast communities, and detailing the value of trees in urban areas. If you would like to help AMERICAN FORESTS with any of these projects--every $1 plants a tree--please visit www.americanforests.org or call 800/545-TREE.