2003 CPEO Military List Archive

From: CPEO Moderator <cpeo@cpeo.org>
Date: 23 Dec 2003 15:37:55 -0000
Reply: cpeo-military
Subject: [CPEO-MEF] Lawsuit Seeks Protection For One Of The World’s
For Immediate Release: December 22, 2003

For More Information: Peter Galvin (510) 625-0136 x2

Lawsuit Seeks Protection for Okinawa Woodpecker, One of the World's
Rarest Birds

Washington, D.C. - The Center for Biological Diversity filed a lawsuit
today in U.S. District Court in Washington D.C. to compel the U.S. Fish
and Wildlife Service (FWS) to protect one of the world's most imperiled
bird species, the Okinawa woodpecker (Sapheopipo noguchii), under the
U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA).

This rare woodpecker lives in undisturbed subtropical, evergreen
broadleaved forests of Yanbaru, the northern mountainous region of the
island of Okinawa, Japan. The few remaining pairs of woodpeckers are on
the brink of extinction, primarily due to the ongoing destruction of
forest habitat. The population is estimated to be 100-500 birds.

The Okinawa woodpecker is threatened by road construction,
clear-cutting, agriculture, golf course development, construction, and
other activities that destroy and fragment the woodpecker's forest
habitat. Its limited range and extremely small population also make it
highly vulnerable to extinction from disease and natural disasters such
as typhoons.

A significant amount of the remaining habitat for the species is found
on lands controlled by the U.S. Marine Corps, Northern Training Area
(NTA).  This habitat, which up to now has been relatively
well protected, is now threatened by plans to construct new helicopter
landing pads and associated infrastructure.

The International Council for Bird Preservation sought protection for
the Okinawa woodpecker in 1980 by petitioning FWS to list the species as
threatened or endangered under the ESA.  While FWS determined that
listing the Okinawa woodpecker "may be warranted," it subsequently
determined in 1984 that listing the species was "precluded" by higher
priority listing actions. FWS had a mandatory duty to revisit this
determination every year and show expeditious progress toward listing
the woodpecker, but has failed to do so since 1991.

"The Okinawa woodpecker is an international treasure, an ecological and
cultural monument. The FWS has left it to languish in bureaucratic
purgatory for far too long. We must act now to protect this wonder of
nature from extinction," Peter Galvin, Pacific Director  for the Center
for Biological Diversity, stated.

The Center for Biological Diversity is working to protect other rare
species in Japan and throughout the Pacific.  On September 25th, 2003,
the Center for Biological Diversity and a coalition of
conservation groups from both sides of the Pacific filed a lawsuit in
U.S. Federal District Court in
San Francisco (Okinawa Dugong v. Rumsfeld, C-03-4350) against the U.S.
Department of Defense over plans to construct a new airbase facility on
a coral reef on the east coast of Okinawa, Japan.
Conservationists are  concerned that the proposed 1.5-mile-long airbase
would not only destroy
the coral reef, but also the prime remaining habitat of the endangered
Okinawa dugong.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a science-based environmental
advocacy organization that works to protect endangered species and wild
places throughout the world through science, policy,
education and environmental law. The Center is headquartered in Tucson,

The case # is 03-2611. The case has been assigned to Judge Rosemary


The Okinawa woodpecker is approximately 10 inches tall, and is a dark
brown bird with red-tipped feathers and white spots on its wings. It
lives only in Yanburu, a small area of forested woodlands of northern
Okinawa, Japan.  Yanbaru is a very unique ecological area that supports
a number of
specialized native animals and plants, including the Okinawa woodpecker.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources
(IUCN) has designated the Okinawa woodpecker as a "critically
endangered" species because of its single, tiny, and declining

Japan's Ministry of Environment has similarly designated the species as
"critically endangered."

The Okinawa woodpecker is the prefectural bird of Okinawa and is also
designated as a national natural monument.

The greatest danger to the woodpecker, aside from the small extent of
remaining undisturbed forests, is the fragmentation of its population
into scattered tiny colonies and isolated pairs.

 - end -

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