Activists sue to stop water project near ivory-billed woodpecker habitat

Bird lovers rejoiced when the ivory-billed woodpecker was rediscovered, but now the fun really begins. Eco-advocates are aiming to block two planned federal water projects that threaten the eastern Arkansas bottomland hardwood forest area where the bird resides. Two conservation groups filed suit in federal court yesterday to stop one of them, the Grand Prairie irrigation project, a 250,000-acre undertaking (located about 20 miles from where the woodpecker was sighted) that would divert about 158 billion gallons of water a year to the region’s rice farmers. In early May, the Army Corps of Engineers stopped work on the project to assess its potential impact on the woodpecker, then determined that it wasn’t likely to cause the bird any harm and resumed work in early June. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agreed with the Corps’ assessment. But environmentalists aren’t buying it — they argue that both projects could drive the ivory-bill really, truly extinct at last.