ASNV Defends the Red-cockaded Woodpecker

Red-cockaded Woodpecker, Rebecca Vassallo/GBBC

Red-cockaded Woodpecker, Rebecca Vassallo/GBBC

ASNV joined 30 other conservation groups last month to express continued support for listing of the Red-cockaded Woodpecker as endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act.

First listed in 1970, the Red-cockaded Woodpecker has declined throughout its range, mostly in the Southeast, because of destruction of the pine forests in which it nests. The bird prefers 60- to 80-year-old trees, which are susceptible to red heart fungus, an organism that decays a tree's heartwood, making excavation of nests easier for the woodpeckers. The widespread logging of pine forests in the Southeast reduced the Red-cockaded Woodpecker from more than a million family groups prior to European contact to only 10,000 individual birds by 1970. Today, an estimated 7,800 active clusters of Red-cockaded Woodpeckers survive across the bird’s range, which is greatly diminished. Long-leaf pine forests, where the woodpeckers find their favored nest trees, are among the world’s most endangered ecosystems.

The species once nested from New Jersey, Maryland, and Virginia down to Florida, west to Texas, and north into Oklahoma, Missouri, Tennessee, and Kentucky. The bird is virtually extirpated north of North Carolina and in all interior states except Arkansas. Remaining populations are fragmented and generally small.

The Endangered Species Act requires the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), the federal agency responsible for protecting non-marine species, to conduct reviews every five years of the status of each listed species to determine whether a species remains endangered or threatened under the act. FWS should have completed a five-year review on the woodpecker by 2011, making the current review seven years overdue.

ASNV signed on to comments submitted to FWS by the Southern Environmental Law Center. The comments contend that FWS data support continued endangered status for the Red-cockaded Woodpecker.

To see the full text of the comments, click here.