Black-backed Woodpeckers love burnt out forests. They are also endangered

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that it will conduct a full status review to determine whether genetically distinct populations of black-backed woodpeckers — which thrive in forests where fires have burned — will get protection under the Endangered Species Act in two regions, California/Oregon and the Black Hills of South Dakota. Today’s decision that protection may be warranted for these birds comes in response to a scientific petition submitted by four conservation groups last May. Black-backed woodpeckers are threatened by logging that destroys their post-fire habitat. "This is the first time in the history of the Endangered Species Act that the government has initiated steps to protect a wildlife species that depends upon stands of fire-killed trees," said Dr. Chad Hanson, an ecologist and black-backed woodpecker expert. "We are pleased to see the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recognize the naturalness and ecological importance of this post-fire habitat."

The California Coyote Hunt Will Go On Despite Petition Drive

State wildlife officials in California declined to call off a coyote-hunting contest in Modoc County this weekend but, in response to public outcry, agreed to take steps to clarify the scope of the hunt and protect OR-7, the first wild wolf in California in nearly nine decades. The precautionary steps were recommended by a coalition of conservation groups representing more than a million Californians, including Project Coyote, the Center for Biological Diversity and Animal Welfare Institute. The California Fish and Wildlife Department received more than 20,000 comments and petition signatures from members of the public who oppose the coyote hunt. On Wednesday, following a hearing that included testimony from more than a dozen hunt-contest opponents, wildlife officials agreed to educate the hunt’s sponsors and participants on the physical differences between coyotes and wolves and to make clear that shooting wolves violates both state and federal law. The agency will also provide wardens to monitor the hunt and ensure it complies with the law.

Two Arctic Ice Seals Gain Endangered Species Act Protection – Warming Climate a Key Factor

Responding to a 2008 petition from the Center for Biological Diversity, the federal government today finalized Endangered Species Act protection for two ice-dependent Arctic seals threatened by melting sea ice and snowpack due to climate change. Ringed seals and bearded seals, found in the waters off Alaska, are the first species since polar bears to be protected primarily because of climate change threats. "Arctic animals face a clear danger of extinction from climate change," said Shaye Wolf, the Center's climate science director. "The Endangered Species Act offers strong protections for these seals, but we can't save the Arctic ecosystem without confronting the broader climate crisis. The Obama administration has to take decisive action, right now, against greenhouse gas pollution to preserve a world filled with ice seals, walruses and polar bears."

Freshwater Mussels given protection

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service extended Endangered Species Act protection to eight species of freshwater mussels and 1,494 miles of stream in Alabama and Florida today, following an agreement reached with the Center for Biological Diversity in 2011 to speed protection decisions for 757 species around the country. The mussels have been waiting in line for federal protection since 2004. "Freshwater mussels are an integral part of the natural and cultural heritage of the Southeast, and it's very exciting that these eight species are getting the protection they need to survive," said Tierra Curry, a conservation biologist with the Center. "The Endangered Species Act has a 99 percent success rate at saving species from extinction, so now these cool animals have a fighting chance."