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Ivory-billed woodpecker, 22 other species declared extinct

The U.S. government on Wednesday declared 23 species, including 22 animals and one plant, extinct after officials said they exhausted the best available science to find evidence of their survival in the wild.

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Officials with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed removing the species, including the ivory-billed woodpecker, the Bachman’s warbler, the Little Mariana fruit bat and several species of freshwater mussels, from the Endangered Species Act.

“Each of these 23 species represents a permanent loss to our nation’s natural heritage and to global biodiversity,” Bridget Fahey, who oversees species classification for the Fish and Wildlife Service, told The New York Times. “And it’s a sobering reminder that extinction is a consequence of human-caused environmental change.”

Many of the species named Wednesday went extinct due to a loss of habitat caused by human activities, officials said, adding that climate change was likely to continue to exacerbate the situation in the future. In 2019, scientists warned that one million plant and animal species were on the verge of extinction due to human causes, such as overfishing, pollution and urban expansion, and the warming climate, according to The Washington Post.

Several of the species listed as extinct Wednesday were last seen years before they were listed as endangered, suggesting they were already extinct or near-extinct by the time they gained the designation. The last confirmed sighting of the ivory-billed woodpecker was reported in 1944 in northeast Louisiana, though the bird wasn’t listed as endangered until 1967. The Scioto madtom, a fish found in a small section of the Big Darby Creek in Ohio, was last seen in the wild in 1957. It was listed as endangered in 1975.

Eleven species from Hawaii and Guam were among those declared extinct, including the curved-beak Kauai akialoa and nukupu’u and the colorful Maui akepa and Molokai creeper. The Kauai `o`o, whose haunting call was last heard in the 1980s, was also declared extinct.

Hawaii and the Pacific Islands are home to the most plants and animals listed as endangered out of any state due to their isolation and the act that many of the species found there are found no where else in the world, officials said.

Officials said 54 species have been delisted from the Endangered Species Act due to their populations recovering, including the bald eagle and the peregrine falcon. Only 11 species have been previously removed from the Endangered Species Act due to extinction, according to The Associated Press.

Craig Hilton-Taylor of the Switzerland-based International Union for Conservation of Nature told the AP that the group was not listing the ivory-billed woodpecker as extinct because it could possibly still exist in Cuba. He warned that if a species is declared extinct prematurely, “Suddenly the (conservation) money is no longer there, and then suddenly you do drive it to extinction because you stop investing in it.”

Beginning Thursday, officials will be accepting public comment on the proposal to remove the 23 species deemed extinct from the Endangered Species Act.

The species were named as:

  • Backman’s warbler
  • Bridled white-eye (bird)
  • Flat pigtoe mussel
  • Green-blossom pearly mussel
  • Ivory-billed woodpecker
  • Kauai akialoa (bird)
  • Kauai nukupuu (bird)
  • Kauai ‘o’o (bird)
  • Large Kauai thrush (bird)
  • Little Mariana fruit bat
  • Maui akepa (bird)
  • Maui nukupu’u (bird)
  • Molokai creeper (bird)
  • Phyllostegia glabra var. lanaiensis (plant)
  • Po’ouli (bird)
  • San Marcos gambusia
  • Scioto madtom (fish)
  • Southern acornshell mussel
  • Stirrupshell mussel
  • Tubercled-blossom pearly mussel
  • Turgid-blossom pearly mussel
  • Upland combshell mussel
  • Yellow-blossom pearly mussel

Public comments will be accepted for 60 days.

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