Princeton University Library Catalog

An Evaluation of a Mitigation Proposal for the Red-cockaded Woodpeckers (Picoides borealis) of Cainhoy Plantation, South Carolina

Bennett, Pilar [Browse]
Senior thesis
Wilcove, David S. [Browse]
Princeton University. Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology [Browse]
Princeton University. Program in Urban Studies [Browse]
Class year:
Summary note:
The endangered red-cockaded woodpecker (Picoides borealis) has suffered extirpation from the pine forests of the Southeast largely due to loss of suitable habitat to logging and development. In response to these heavy losses, the Endangered Species Act of 1973 mandated that federal and state bodies actively manage the habitat of the bird to encourage population growth and viability. Private landowners are prohibited from harming birds on their property; however, landowners wishing to develop their property may apply for incidental take permits. One such property, with 16 groups of red-cockaded woodpeckers (“RCW”), is the 9,087-acre Cainhoy Plantation, in South Carolina. In 2013, the owners of Cainhoy proposed, and received approval for, a master plan to develop the property. Schematics of the master plan show significant portions of the RCW-occupied longleaf pine habitat being developed. This research evaluated the 2013 draft Habitat Conservation Plan off-site mitigation proposal in the context of the literature on RCWs and conservation biology. I came to the conclusion that the following must be included to ensure mitigation for the 11 RCW groups that require incidental take permits prior to development: (i) a 2:1 ratio of established fledglings to impacted groups, (ii) a higher number of average fledglings per group to promote 5 percent population growth, and (iii) articulation plan for long-term population viability of the newly established groups at Cainhoy and Hitchcock Woods. I also found that the mitigation proposal overlooks the harm to the RCW population of the adjacent Francis Marion National Forest (“FMNF”) and considered the use of buffer zones to mitigate for harm to the neighboring birds. I then considered a “No-Take,” on-site mitigation alternative that calls for a revised urban design to eliminate the need for incidental take permits. By examining and weighing the pros and cons of the potential Cainhoy mitigation mechanisms from a biological perspective, this study discusses two approaches for the mitigation of the Cainhoy RCWs within the context of the Endangered Species Act, Habitat Conservation Plan, and Recovery Plan.