Protect Rare and Threatened Black-Backed Woodpeckers

black-backed woodpecker

Target: Daniel Ashe, Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Goal: Demand that the agency uphold the Endangered Species Act and protect the black-backed woodpecker

The Endangered Species Act (ESA) represents one of the most important safeguards to protect imperiled animals and their habitats. In recent years, corporations, and specifically the lumber industry, have fought to weaken the legislation specifically because it is effective. Conservation groups petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) in 2012 to list the rare black-backed woodpecker as threatened or endangered. While the agency initially issued a positive finding, nearly two years later it has yet to conduct its required review or to protect the rare birds under the ESA.

Black-backed woodpeckers in California, Oregon, and the Black Hills region of South Dakota face intense pressure from the lumber industry. They prefer nesting in standing dead trees called “snags.” This limited habitat has few protections and is often logged following fires. By stalling the review process, the USFWS has denied life-saving protections for the birds, prompting the Center for Biological Diversity and the John Muir Project to file a lawsuit against the agency.

“For decades now, the science has consistently demonstrated the importance of burned forest habitat for black-backed woodpeckers,” explains Dr. Chad Hanson with the John Muir Project, “but legal protections still do not exist to ensure such areas are conserved rather than logged.” Call on the USFWS to uphold its duty to protect threatened black-backed woodpeckers under the Endangered Species Act.


Dear Mr. Ashe,

Researchers have consistently shown that logging after a wildfire eliminates crucial wildlife habitat and negatively affects the health of the forest itself. Threatened and endangered animals like the black-backed woodpecker depend on snags for nesting sites and food, yet few protections are in place to preserve burned forests. The Endangered Species Act is an important tool for wildlife conservation, but only when the agencies tasked to uphold it actually do so.

I am writing in support of the Center for Biological Diversity and the John Muir Project which have issued their intent to sue your agency. These organizations petitioned the USFWS two years ago to list the black-backed woodpecker as threatened or endangered. While your agency agreed that such action was likely warranted, it has yet to complete the review process that must take place prior to listing. The woodpecker has already been granted “candidate” status under the California ESA, and there is no reason for the USFWS to neglect its duty in enforcing more comprehensive federal protections.

Your agency’s stalling has already taken a toll on these rare birds. I urge you to immediately proceed with the 12-month review of the black-backed woodpecker’s listing under the ESA as required by law and now nearly one year late in coming.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Northeast Region via Flickr

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