By David Robinson, October 1, 2021
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s recent announcement that it plans to declare 22 animals and a plant as extinct—thereby deleting them from the endangered species list—was distressing.
The new list of lost species includes the ivory-billed woodpecker and ten other birds, eight freshwater mussels, two fish, a bat, and a plant (Hawaiian flowering plant from the mint family: Phyllostegia glabra). They were previously at home in 19 different states.
They will be added to the roster of 650 other U.S. species that were previously considered extinct.
“Each of these 23 species represents a permanent loss to our nation’s natural heritage and to global biodiversity,” said Bridget Fahey, who coordinates species classification for the Fish and Wildlife Service. “And it’s a sobering reminder that extinction is a consequence of human-caused environmental change.”
Of course, the “human-caused” change Fahey refers to includes farming, logging, mining, and damming that depletes critical habitats; pollution; poaching and overfishing; and climate change impacts.
The fact that many of them were probably on the way to the extinct status before the 1973 enactment of the Endangered Species Act offers little comfort.
The latest alarming announcement is another “wake-up” call that we must heed. It’s a reminder that up to 1 million species face potential extinction, some within decades, due to the dire worldwide biodiversity crisis.
We can count on committed, experienced conservationists to continue their laser-like focus on protecting threatened and endangered species. We know that an increasing number of environmental organizations, legislators, and other supporters will fight against unwarranted changes to the Endangered Species Act. There is also hope that many young people and adults are becoming involved.
We can’t bring the ivory-billed woodpecker, Mariana fruit bat, Phyllostegia glabra, or tubercled-blossom pearly mussel back. But we can do everything possible to “protect and conserve” threatened and endangered species and the precious habitats on which they depend. And we must discard the “extinction is inevitable” and “you can’t save everything” attitude.