The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Peter Galvin, (707) 986-2600,

Lawsuit Launched to Protect Critically Endangered Okinawa Woodpecker


The Center for Biological Diversity today filed a notice of its intent to sue the Trump administration for failing to protect the Okinawa woodpecker under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. Only between 50-249 mature individual Okinawa woodpeckers remain, and many inhabit a U.S. military facility in Japan.

Conservationists submitted a petition to protect the birds in 1980; yet almost 40 years later, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has failed to act, even as the bird's population continues to decline.

The woodpecker -- a brown bird with red-tipped feathers -- is found in only one place on Earth: a small area of old-growth forest on the Japanese island of Okinawa. Most of the birds' remaining habitat is found within the U.S. Marine Corps' Jungle Warfare Training Center, a U.S. military installation in northern Okinawa.

"The Okinawa woodpecker is critically endangered, and some of its last remaining habitat sits inside a U.S. military installation," said Peter Galvin, director of programs at the Center. "Yet the U.S. government can't be bothered to protect the woodpecker under U.S. law, as is clearly required."

The biggest threat to the woodpecker is destruction of its old-growth forest habitat from logging, dams, agriculture, golf course development, and critically, U.S. military actions. In 2016 the Marine Corps constructed six controversial new helipads in its Jungle Warfare Training Center, despite intense protest from local, Okinawan people and concerns about the Okinawan woodpecker.

"The Okinawa woodpecker needs and deserves protection now," said Galvin, who has seen the rare woodpecker in the wild. "The U.S. government should comply with the same wildlife-protection standards whether it's acting within our borders or abroad. We should respect the people of Okinawa's strong desire to have these beautiful birds saved from extinction."

For over a decade, the Okinawa woodpecker has lingered on the Fish and Wildlife Service's "warranted but precluded" list of plants and wildlife that may deserve protection but are not considered priorities. This regulatory purgatory provides the species no substantive protections.

At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature — to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters and climate that species need to survive.

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