The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) on Wednesday confirmed the extinction of 22 animal species and one plant that had previously been listed under the Endangered Species Act.
Interior Secretary Deb HaalandDeb HaalandNevada governor apologizes for state's role in indigenous schools The Hill's 12:30 Report: Biden to announce increased measures for omicron The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden talks up bright side beneath omicron's cloud MORE warned that climate change will exacerbate the conditions that led to their extinction, saying “now is the time to lift up proactive, collaborative, and innovative efforts to save America's wildlife.”
“The Endangered Species Act has been incredibly effective at preventing species from going extinct and has also inspired action to conserve at-risk species and their habitat before they need to be listed as endangered or threatened,” Haaland added.
“The specifics for each of the species demise’ vary, but the story arc is essentially the same. Humans altered their habitat in a significant way, and we couldn't or didn't do enough to ultimately change the trajectory, before it was too late,” Haaland said in a press conference Wednesday. “But this moment is sobering as it is, can serve as a wake up call our children and grandchildren will not know the earth as we do, unless we change the status quo. We've got to do better by this planet, and we need to do it now.”
Here are the 23 species delisted in Wednesday’s announcement.
The ivory-billed woodpecker
Once inhabiting the American Deep South and parts of Cuba, the ivory-billed woodpecker was a threatened species since at least 1967, when it was listed under the Endangered Species Preservation Act (ESPA), the statute that preceded the ESA.
The last commonly acknowledged U.S. sighting of an ivory-billed woodpecker in the wild occurred in 1944. The decades since saw a number of reported sightings, often leading to efforts to preserve those areas from development. The Interior Department attributed the species’ extinction to a combination of collection and the loss of the mature forest habitats where it lived.
A sighting of the Bachman’s warbler, like the ivory-billed woodpecker, has been rare since the mid-20th century. The bird was also listed under the ESPA in 1967. The last confirmed U.S. sighting of the songbird occurred in Louisiana in 1988, while the last adult was collected in the wild in 1941.
Like the woodpecker, the USFWS said the extinction was largely the result of habitat loss. The swamplands on the Gulf Coast and in the southeastern U.S. where they lived have been disrupted for decades. Before that, the species was frequently collected for the hat trade.
The San Marcos gambusia
This livebearer fish, named for its habitat in Texas’s San Marcos river, has been listed as endangered since 1980, and has not been sighted in the wild since 1983. The USFWS attributed the extinction in large part to shifts in the fish’s habitat, such as depletion of groundwater and the aquatic vegetation they eat.
However, the drop in population is also in part the result of hybridization with other fish in the gambusia genus, according to the USFWS. The genus contains more than 40 species, about a quarter of which are some level of threatened.
The Scioto madtom
Like the gambusia, the madtom was named after its habitat—in this case, the Big Darby Creek, an offshoot of Ohio’s Scioto River. The fish was listed as endangered in 1975 and only 18 individual specimens have ever been collected. The last confirmed sighting occurred in 1957.
Unlike most of the other delisted species, the USFWS could not definitively determine the exact cause of the madtom’s extinction, but said it was likely habitat degradation caused by a combination of agricultural runoff and industrial discharge.
Eight species of freshwater mussel
More than half of freshwater mussel species make their habitats in the U.S., and their reliance on clean, healthy waterways puts them at particular risk, according to the USFSW. All the delisted species in question lived in the southeastern U.S.
Species covered by the announcement include the flat pigtoe of Mississippi, the stirrupshell of Alabama; the southern acornshell of Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee; the green-blossom pearly of Tennessee and Virginia; the turgid-blossom pearly mussel of Tennessee, Alabama and Arkansas; and the yellow-blossom pearly mussel of Tennessee and Alabama. The final species, the tubercled-blossom pearl mussel, was found across the widest range, including Alabama, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee and West Virginia, as well as southern Ontario, Canada.
Eleven Hawaiian and Pacific Island species
These delisted species include a number of birds and other fauna found in Hawaii and the Pacific. These species were particularly vulnerable as they typically live on only one island or archipelago, according to USFWS.
Although the majority of these species are birds found in Hawaii, the USFWS also delisted Guam’s Little Mariana fruit bat, last sighted in 1968 and first listed in 1984. It also delisted one Guamanian bird, the bridled white-eye, last seen in 1983 and listed a year later. The list of species delisted also includes one plant, the lanaiensis variation of Phyllostegia glabra.
The remaining species are Hawaiian birds: the Kauai akialoa, the Kauai nukuouum the Kauaʻi ʻōʻō, the large Kauai thrush, the Maui ākepa, the Maui nukupuʻu, the Molokai creeper and the Po`ouli.