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Woodpecker Downlisting Plan Draws Concern From Conservationists

Photo: Bruce Jastrow

The Red Cockaded Woodpecker is on the verge of being removed from the endangered species list. The Trump administration has proposed downlisting the bird to “threatened”, citing improvement in population numbers.

It’s a success story, says Tall Timbers Research station biologist Todd Engstrom.

But that recovery has been due largely to a lot of human help. And there’s concerns the population won’t be able to sustain itself without ongoing support:

“What we’re not seeing is ecosystem management, we’re not burning enough. So the concern is that we may be able to move them around, but we’re not doing things for the long-term ecosystem health.”

The Red Cockaded Woodpecker has traditionally lived in Longleaf Pine and prefers trees more than 60 years old. The region’s pine forests took a hard hit during Hurricane Michael.

The bird is also a fire-dependent species, and needs wildfires to help clear overgrown brush so pine trees thrive. Engstrom says there’s not enough fire management happening to keep the region’s pine forests clear.

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