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IVORY-BILLS  LiVE???!  ...

=> THE blog devoted to news and commentary on the most iconic bird in American ornithology, the Ivory-billed Woodpecker (IBWO)... and... sometimes other schtuff.

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"....The truth is out there."

-- Dr. Jerome Jackson, 2002 (... & Agent Fox Mulder)

“There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

-- Hamlet

"All truth passes through 3 stages: First it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as self-evident."

-- Arthur Schopenhauer

Sunday, July 07, 2013


-- Re-hash --


The prior blog-post brought in a small odd mix of email responses, so, re-tracing a bit....

This whole matter began with some simple sentences in a 1967 memo uncovered from a timber industry official to a Government wildlife official (as quoted in my 5/31 post):

"One major company has ivory-billed woodpeckers on its lands in the South and has taken steps to protect the areas where they are located. Fearing that any publicity might attract people to the areas and disturb the birds, the company has kept this matter a secret. It does no harvesting in those areas."
Now, either that statement is:

1) a bald-faced lie
2) a bald-faced mistake
3) a bald-faced truth (and there were living Ivory-billed Woodpeckers under protection on timber industry property in 1967 that several people knew of)… which implies, in turn, lies or deception on the part of many.

My take from the beginning has been that the most likely explanation is an ill-informed mistake/misidentification.
Yet, some emailers felt the last post (7/4) needlessly pushed a 'conspiracy theory'… so will reiterate that I DON'T believe there could've been any group of IBWOs under official protection anywhere in the Southeast in the 60s/70s… in part because I don't believe the folks required for such an effort would've had the brights to successfully pull off such a large-scale deception! ...BUT, circumstances remain that seem peculiar.

The agency receiving the above memo (including those remarkable sentences), surely would've investigated such a claim of Ivory-bill presence at the time, and probably found no verification (there were many IBWO claims across the Southeast in the 60s/70s, and so far as the literature is concerned, none were ever confirmed; but is there a written record somewhere of investigating this particular claim?). I've speculated (6/15 post) that the property referred to in the memo may have been near the Neches River (TX.) where several claims came from, though it could've been from a completely different locale.

But then along comes the last memorandum (7/4 post) which now once again hints at Ivory-bills in Texas, this time at Sam Houston National Forest in 1971, and specific actions taken to protect them (indeed, an "Ivory-billed Woodpecker sanctuary and buffer"!)… perhaps all of these memos reference mere proposals or planning documents, pointing to actions that were considered but never implemented… though as written, they certainly sound like actions that were indeed underway and with the knowledge of a Government agency.

Multiple emailers referred me to this passage (pg. 35) from the 2007 USFWS Draft Recovery Plan for the IBWO, which simply reflects what was already in the literature, and only ADDS to (does NOT resolve) any intrigue:

"Wherever the Ivory-billed Woodpecker is suspected to still exist it stirs both excitement and action. In the early 1970’s Sam Houston National Forest in east Texas proposed to modify timber harvests based on three unconfirmed Ivory-billed Woodpecker sightings by their staff (Ruediger 1971). These and other sightings in east Texas were never widely accepted and, consequently, did not stimulate forest management changes to promote the welfare of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker.  Similar stories of unconfirmed sightings have generated no change in land management throughout the southeast." [Bold added]
This is the same general version of events that fills the historical writing on the IBWO, but what "Houston" has provided with his FOIA gleanings are raw background materials that appear to directly contradict the above gloss-over statements, indicating that "land management" practices WERE in fact altered in certain instances upon belief of Ivory-bill presence. WHY the discrepancy??? Were these instances of management-changes so minor as to be considered insignificant; were the seemingly altered practices never actually carried out? Is the language in these documents so loose and sloppy that it doesn't mean what it appears to mean?  Or maybe the above statements simply say, rather insipidly, that no broad-scale land-management changes took place all across the entire Southeast on behalf of IBWOs, even though isolated changes did occur in select few areas? Something just seems amiss…

I'm pressing the issue because OTHERS will believe a 'conspiracy theory' is what best fits the pieces together (that the timber industry or a Gov't. agency had IBWOs secretly under protection in the 60s/70s)... which I believe IS a near-preposterous notion… unfortunately, the alternative is that multiple people are lying, concealing, or badly mistaken about some matters, and the question is simply why? 

Almost certainly, there are still at least a few individuals alive today from that period (early 70s) who know what the answers are… and they don't seem to be saying much. The answer may be very simple; I'm just waiting to hear of it.

The Ivory-billed Woodpecker saga has for awhile held a sort of reverse Midas-touch effect… many of those deeply involved, eventually become too embarrassed by their association with it, to say much out-loud on the topic -- it becomes the touch, not of gold, but of quicksand.

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