Endangered status sought for woodpecker that thrives in post-fire habitatRENO, Nev. — Smokey Bear has done such a good job stomping out forest fires the past half-century that a woodpecker that’s survived for millions of years by eating beetle larvae in burned trees is in danger of going extinct in parts of the West, including South Dakota.
By: SCOTT SONNER, The Associated Press
RENO, Nev. — Smokey Bear has done such a good job stomping out forest fires the past half-century that a woodpecker that’s survived for millions of years by eating beetle larvae in burned trees is in danger of going extinct in parts of the West, according to conservationists seeking U.S. protection for the bird.
Four conservation groups filed a petition with the U.S. Interior Department on Wednesday to list the blackbacked woodpecker under the Endangered Species Act in the Sierra Nevada, Oregon’s Eastern Cascades and the Black Hills of eastern Wyoming and western South Dakota.
It is the first federal petition to recognize the ecological significance and seek protection of post-fire habitat, an expert said.
In addition to fire suppression, the groups contend postfire salvage logging combined with commercial thinning of green forests is eliminating what little remains of the bird’s habitat, mostly in national forests where it has no legal protection.
“Intensely burned forest habitat not only has no legal protection, but standard practice on private and public lands is to actively eliminate it,” the petition said. “When fire and insect outbreaks create excellent woodpecker habitat, salvage logging promptly destroys it.”
Chad Hanson, executive director the Earth Island’s John Muir Project based in Cedar Ridge, Calif., filed the petition Wednesday with the Interior Department’s U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Sacramento. Co-petitioners are the Center for Biological Diversity based in Tucson, Ariz., the Blue Mountains Biodiversity Project in Fossil, Ore., and the Biodiversity Conservation Alliance in Laramie, Wyo.
Hanson, a wildlife ecologist at the University of California, Davis, said the black-backed woodpecker has been eating beetles in fire-killed stands of conifer forests for millions of years and specifically in North American forests for “many thousand years — since the last Ice Age.”
“Now, it’s very rare,” he said.