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For Immediate Release, January 5, 2012

Contact:  Marc Fink, Center for Biological Diversity, (218) 464-0539
Tracy Davids, Wild South, (828) 712-0945

Lawsuit Filed to Protect Endangered Woodpecker From
Excessive Logging on Mississippi's Noxubee Wildlife Refuge

BROOKSVILLE, Miss.— Two conservation groups and a long-time volunteer filed suit today against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over the logging of endangered red-cockaded woodpecker habitat on Mississippi’s Noxubee Wildlife Refuge. The agency has increased logging in the woodpecker’s home even though the bird’s population is in steady decline and excessive logging was a major factor in its endangerment; it has also failed to notify the public before developing logging proposals.

“National wildlife refuges are meant to be safe homes for America’s animals and plants, not large-scale commercial logging sites,” said Marc Fink, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity.

The Fish and Wildlife Service prepared a “comprehensive conservation plan” for the refuge in 2004 that identified a target population of 88 groups of red-cockaded woodpeckers. At the time, there were 45 groups. But today as few as 31 groups remain, far short of the 88-group target, and some of these “groups” are only one individual — meaning no reproduction is possible. At the same time, logging on the refuge has significantly increased.

The Endangered Species Act requires agencies to re-consult on plans where new information reveals impacts to an endangered species that were not previously considered. Despite the steady decline of this very rare woodpecker since completion of the 2004 refuge plan, Fish and Wildlife has not re-consulted as required.

In addition, the National Environmental Policy Act requires federal agencies to meaningfully involve the public and to assess and disclose the potential environmental impacts of its actions. On the Noxubee, however, Fish and Wildlife routinely issues permits to logging companies without preparing environmental analyses, giving public notice or welcoming involvement. Even long-time volunteers at the refuge are not told of logging plans.

“The steady decline of the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker on the Noxubee Wildlife Refuge should be a wake-up call that additional protection is needed,” said Tracy Davids of Wild South. “It’s long past time for the Fish and Wildlife Service to involve the public and revisit its lack of proper protection for wildlife on this refuge.”

Today’s suit was filed by refuge volunteer Margaret Copeland, Wild South and the Center for Biological Diversity.

Video and photos of past logging at the Noxubee Wildlife Refuge can be accessed at:

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