Press Release | February 2, 2022

SELC statement on U.S. Fish and Wildlife’s revised proposed rule to downlist red-cockaded woodpecker

ATLANTA — Today the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced a revised proposal to reclassify the red-cockaded woodpecker. In response to the announcement, SELC Staff Attorney Ramona McGee released the following statement:

“We are encouraged that the Fish and Wildlife Service went back to the drawing board and took a hard look at our previously-raised concerns with how the agency had proposed to manage red-cockaded woodpeckers in the future. The revision appears to scale back many of the originally proposed rule’s vague provisions that would have allowed for a variety of harmful actions to red-cockaded woodpeckers.” 

“The revised proposal would, however, still downlist red-cockaded woodpeckers from endangered to threatened status, without responding to our stated concerns that this reclassification is scientifically and legally unsupported. Although the Service now acknowledges the need for continued and expanded habitat conservation and restoration, the threat of extinction still looms for the species. Habitat loss remains a substantial threat with the majority of red-cockaded woodpeckers persisting in small, isolated pockets of pine forests.” 

Unlike the previous proposal, this revised rule sets a starting point of extending the same protections that red-cockaded woodpeckers currently receive as an endangered species, and then carves out exceptions for certain, limited activities that might harm red-cockaded woodpeckers.  

Federal protections for endangered species are especially vital for the red-cockaded woodpecker as the species faces continued risks such as climate change-induced storm events and sea level rise, and the destruction of its longleaf pine habitat. Learn more about SELC’s work to protect this iconic Southeastern bird here

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