U.S. to declare 23 species extinct

The ivory-billed woodpecker - not officially seen since 1944… and known to bird watchers as the "Lord God Bird" - is one of 23 species that will soon be declared extinct by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service under a proposal announced on Wednesday.

Bridget Fahey oversees species classification for the Fish and Wildlife Service:

"It's a really hard day for those of us in the Fish and Wildlife Service. We dedicate our lives to preventing extinction, and so acknowledging that we might have lost that fight is hard."

The extinctions include 11 birds, eight freshwater mussels, two species of fish, a bat and a plant.

FAHEY: "One of the ones though that really captured my heart when I read about it was the Kauai Oo - also known as a honey eater, because it had a very haunting call..."

The wildlife service says efforts to find the 23 species have been exhausted… and warned that climate change and dwindling habitats on top of other pressures, could make such disappearances more common.

Fahey says work needs to be done.

FAHEY: "The Endangered Species Act is designed to be a safety net from extinction. And it works well for that purpose. But we need to get ahead of the curve by keeping common species common. And the way to do that is to create a network of connected, protected lands across the globe so that we have healthy, intact ecosystems for all species - including our own."

The wildlife service will accept public comment for the next 60 days and a final judgment on these species’ extinction will be published at the end of the year.

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