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HANCOCK TIMBER SIGNS ACCORD TO PROTECT RED-COCKADED WOODPECKERS

 RICHMOND, Va., April 16 /PRNewswire/ -- A major timber manager and key wildlife agencies have signed a "Memorandum of Agreement" to protect both the habitat and a small population of red-cockaded woodpeckers, a species listed as endangered since 1970 in the southeastern United States, The Hancock Timber Resource Group said today.
 The Hancock Timber Resource Group, in cooperation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, and Birmingham-based Resource Management Service, is one of the first commercial forest landowners to sign a memorandum for this species. The agreement includes a detailed management plan to protect the birds and their habitat at the northern edge of their range.
 The agreement means Hancock Timber will protect the birds and their habitat on newly acquired forests in Virginia. Initially, it will protect a half dozen birds in Virginia near the towns of Waverly and Wakefield in Sussex County.
 Hancock also pledges to actively seek and preserve red-cockaded woodpeckers and habitat on its timberland elsewhere in the South as part of its comprehensive stewardship program. Hancock has found active clusters in southern Alabama and southeast Virginia, and an abandoned habitat in Arkansas.
 The bird's population in the Southeast is estimated at 20,000 to 25,000 but is declining. Woodpecker colonies live in the cavities of older, living pine trees. Their natural habitat has been reduced by conversion to younger, intensively managed tree plantations in the South.
 The birds have an advanced social system. They live in clans of from two to nine birds, but there is just a single breeding pair per clan. The others act as helpers to the pair, feeding the young, making new cavities and defending the area from other woodpeckers.
 Hancock's protection plan in Virginia includes preservation of a 526-acre habitat corridor of trees joining two nesting sites. About 80 percent of the corridor is in loblally pine stands with an average age of about 70 years. The plan also includes provisions to mark trees known to have cavities, providing some replacement cavity trees, removing hardwoods, and maintaining adjacent mature foraging habitat.
 "This positive action will make a contribution to the survival of a fragile species on the edge of its range," said Dr. Wayne Marion, Hancock's wildlife biologist. "Our stewardship policy commits us to respect all the resources on the land, not just the timber. We are delighted to have reached this agreement with state and federal wildlife authorities."
 "This is an important step," according to wildlife biologist Ralph Costa of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. "It underscores a cooperative approach to protecting endangered species. We hope to see other private landowners step forward and help in this way." Costa is red-cockaded recovery woodpecker coordinator with the service.
 "The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries is optimistic about this cooperative involvement with Hancock, and is extremely appreciative of Hancock's willingness to address the conservation needs of this endangered species," said Bud Bristow, director.
 The Endangered Species Act prohibits "taking" or "harassing" certain species but does not, by itself, provide habitat protection guidelines for private forestlands. Such guidelines for private timber owners with red-cockaded woodpeckers are expected to be released in several months, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
 Hancock Timber is the nation's largest manager of timber assets for U.S. pension funds, with 1.4 million acres nationwide, including 1 million acres in the Southeast. Resource Management Service is Hancock's on-the-ground timber-management firm for properties ranging from east Texas to Virginia.
 Hancock Timber is a unit of Boston-based John Hancock Financial Services.
 -0- 4/16/93
 /CONTACT: Dr. Wayne Marion of Hancock Timber Resource Group, 206-754-4235; or Vicki Boatwright, 404-331-3594, or Ralph Costa, 803-656-2432, both of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; or Dana Bradshaw of Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, 804-367-6913; or Bob Sundmacher of The Rockey Company, 206-728-1778, for Hancock Timber Resource Group/


CO: Hancock Timber Resource Group; John Hancock Financial Services;
 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service ST: Virginia IN: PAP SU:


AL-LM -- SE004 -- 6731 04/16/93 11:46 EDT
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Date:Apr 16, 1993
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