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For Immediate Release, June 4, 2012


Justin Augustine, Center for Biological Diversity, (415) 436-9682 x302

California Endangered Species Act Protections Restored for Black-backed Woodpeckers

SAN FRANCISCO— A California superior court judge has ratified a settlement between the John Muir Project, Center for Biological Diversity and the California Fish and Game Commission that restores California Endangered Species Act protections to black-backed woodpeckers.

In January, without clear justification, the commission issued a regulation allowing the killing of these rare woodpeckers despite the fact that the species had just been designated as a “candidate” for protection under the California Endangered Species Act. (In California, state candidate species receive many of the same protections as listed species in order to protect them while they are considered for listing.) Not only does the court’s order eliminate the commission’s wrongful regulation, it should also have far-reaching future implications: From now on the commission must fully explain and justify any harm it authorizes to candidate species.

“Luckily for black-backed woodpeckers, and all future candidate species, the commission can’t wantonly allow the killing of these animals anymore,” said Justin Augustine, an attorney with the Center. “The intent of the California Endangered Species Act has always been to protect, not harm, candidate species, and this settlement should finally ensure that the commission complies with the Act.”

Over the past 18 years, on nine other occasions, the commission has adopted nearly identical regulations to the one issued this year for the black-backed woodpecker. These regulations allowed the killing of other candidate species, such as coho salmon and Pacific fishers, but as with the woodpecker, provided no real justification for doing so. As a result of the lawsuit by the John Muir Project and the Center, this longstanding practice has come to an end. 

Black-backed woodpeckers now need help because of logging policies in California that allow for the widespread destruction of both pre-fire and post-fire habitat the birds need to survive. Black-backed woodpeckers are found in the forests of the Sierra Nevada mountains, and in December 2011 the California Fish and Game Commission accepted for consideration a petition from the Center and the John Muir Project to list the black-backed woodpecker as threatened or endangered.  Now a one-year review of the species’ status is under way, and early in 2013, the commission will decide whether to officially list the species. 

A copy of the petition to list the woodpecker can be downloaded at

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