On Wednesday, September 29, federal wildlife officials announced that 23 species of birds, fish, mussels and other wildlife are set to be removed from the endangered species list and declared extinct. This includes the ivory-billed woodpecker, which birders have long searched for in the bayous of Arkansas. The bird has been listed as an endangered species since 1967, and the last universally accepted sighting of an ivory-billed woodpecker in the United States occurred in 1944. Also included in the removal are the Bachman’s warbler, two species of freshwater fishes, eight species of Southeastern freshwater mussels and 11 species from Hawaii and the Pacific Islands.
These extinctions come in the wake of the Biden Administration’s commitment to review and revise Trump-era regulations against the 1973 Endangered Species Act, which rolled back protections for endangered and threatened species. According to CNN, these plans were celebrated by the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service in June. Unfortunately, the former stated last week that “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.”
Bridget Fahey, the Fish and Wildlife Service’s Division Chief for Conservation and Classification, said, “Each of these 23 species represents a permanent loss to our nation’s natural heritage and to global biodiversity. And it’s a sobering reminder that extinction is a consequence of human-caused environmental change.”
While these species are, devastatingly, gone for good, actions can and must be taken to prevent the 41,415 remaining species on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List from going extinct. Just this year, the interior least tern — a small Midwestern bird that feeds on small fish and builds nests on the ground — was removed from the endangered species list, where it had been listed for over 35 years. “Dozens of states, federal agencies, tribes, businesses and conservation groups have worked tirelessly over the course of three decades to successfully recover these birds,” said a representative from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.