U.S. wildlife officials said Wednesday, Sept. 29, that the ivory-billed woodpecker, along with 22 other birds, fish, mussels, and other species, will be declared extinct and removed from the endangered species list.
“For the species proposed for delisting today, the protections of the (Endangered Species Act) came too late, with most either extinct, functionally extinct, or in steep decline at the timing of listing,” the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said.
As AP reported, the woodpecker disappeared, making unconfirmed appearances in recent decades that sparked a frenzy of ultimately unsuccessful searches in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Florida swamps.
Others, such as the flat pigtoe, a freshwater mussel found in the southeastern U.S., were only spotted a few times in the wild and never seen again.
“When I see one of those really rare ones, it’s always in the back of my mind that I might be the last one to see this animal again,” said Anthony Ford. Ford is a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist in Tennessee who specializes in freshwater mussels.
The Bachman’s warbler, two freshwater fish species, eight species of Southeastern freshwater mussels, and 11 species from Hawaii and the Pacific Islands are also on the list to be delisted, according to abc13.
“The circumstances of each also underscore how human activity can drive species decline and extinction, by contributing to habitat loss, overuse and the introduction of invasive species and disease. The growing impacts of climate change are anticipated to further exacerbate these threats and their interactions,” the wildlife agency said.
“… now is the time to lift up proactive, collaborative, and innovative efforts to save America’s wildlife,” Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said Wednesday in a statement. “The Endangered Species Act has been incredibly effective at preventing species from going extinct and has also inspired action to conserve at-risk species and their habitat before they need to be listed as endangered or threatened.”
“We will continue to ensure that states, Tribes, private landowners, and federal agencies have the tools they need to conserve America’s biodiversity and natural heritage.”
When first put on the endangered species list in the 1960s, all 23 were deemed to have little chance of survival. However, after almost 50 years since the Endangered Species Act was signed, only 11 species have been removed due to extinction.
Public comment on the proposal to delist the 23 species will be open until the end of December before the species’ status changes become final.
A total of 902 species have been identified as extinct around the world. However, because some are never formally identified, the actual number is considered to be much higher, and many experts warn that the globe is in an “extinction crisis,” with flora and wildlife dying at 1,000 times the historical rate.
John Fitzpatrick, emeritus director of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, said the ivory-billed woodpecker was last seen in the United States in the 1940s in Louisiana.
“My view, it’s way premature to declare the bird extinct officially on the part of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service because the bird may still exist,” he told CNN. “The point of declaring something extinct is having rock solid evidence that it is gone.”