The red-cockaded woodpecker, a small bird native to the United States, used to cause a lot of trouble to the military. The bird’s habitat is living long leaf pine trees, and vast stretches of Louisiana’s Fort Polk military reservation, which is located next to Kisatchie National Forest in Leesville, are dominated by piney woods. As the great forests of North America were logged, the bird’s habitat became so diminished that the red-cockaded woodpecker was placed on the endangered species list in 1970.

For years, the ranking officers at Fort Polk resisted the efforts of U.S. Fish and Wildlife and the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries to create a recovery population in the Vernon District of Kisatchie, fearing that military exercises would be curtailed by nesting pairs. All of that has changed. Today the army and wildlife officials are working together in partnership on the Louisiana Statewide Red-cockaded Woodpecker Safe Harbor Program, which bands and studies breeding pairs both on the military base and in the national forest. The military has become great stewards of the land, says Monica Sikes, a biologist for U.S. Fish and Wildlife. “In our experience Fort Polk has worked proactively to conserve the species while meeting their training needs.”

Today’s New York Times is featuring a video, "Military Bases as Wildlife Havens," detailing the relationship between wildlife conservation and the military, focused on Eglin Air Force Base, in Florida. The work to preserve the red-cockaded woodpecker could just as easily have been shot at Fort Polk. Scroll down to the midsection of the NYT website and click on the video image.

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