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US Proposes 23 Species Be Labeled as Extinct


An ivory-billed woodpecker specimen is on a display at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, Sept. 24, 2021.
An ivory-billed woodpecker specimen is on a display at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, Sept. 24, 2021.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said Wednesday that it was proposing 23 species currently protected by the Endangered Species Act be delisted because they are now thought to be extinct.

Perhaps best known among species presumed to be extinct is the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker, a large, colorful and elusive bird with a distinctive call, long sought after by bird-watchers throughout the southeastern United States.

In all, the agency is calling for 11 birds, eight freshwater mussels, two fish, a bat and a plant to be removed from the Endangered Species Act, a measure that went into law in 1973 to provide special protection for species on the brink of extinction.

In a statement on its website, the Fish and Wildlife Service said protection of the 23 species came too late, with most either extinct, functionally extinct, or in steep decline at the timing of listing.

In the statement, U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, whose department includes the Fish and Wildlife Service, blamed climate change and the loss of natural habitat for pushing those and many other species to the brink of extinction. She said, “Now is the time to lift up proactive, collaborative and innovative efforts to save America's wildlife.”

U.S. government scientists do not declare extinctions casually. It often takes decades of fruitless searching. About half of the species in this group were already considered extinct by the Switzerland-based International Union for Conservation of Nature, the global authority on the status of animals and plants.

Officials with the Fish and Wildlife Service tend to move more slowly, in part because it is working through a backlog, but also to exhaust all efforts to follow up on reports of sightings.

In the case of the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker, there have been numerous unconfirmed reports of both sightings of the large, colorful red, white and black bird with a large beak and head feathers, and of hearing its distinctive call in the woods.

The IUCN is reportedly not putting the woodpecker on its extinction list because the organization believes the bird may still exist in parts of Cuba.

Some information for this report came from The Associated Press and Reuters.

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