Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, March 3, 2021


Kristine Akland, (405) 544-9863,

Lawsuit Launched to Obtain Protected Critical Habitat for Secretive Eastern Black Rail

Bird’s Marsh Habitats Threatened by Sea-level Rise From Louisiana to Carolinas

WASHINGTON— The Center for Biological Diversity and Healthy Gulf filed a formal notice today of their intent to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over a Trump administration decision that protecting critical habitat for a threatened bird called the eastern black rail was “not prudent.” Under Trump the agency absurdly claimed that such a designation would expose the species to threats from “overzealous birders.”

The Center and Healthy Gulf sued the Service in March 2020 for its long delay in finalizing Endangered Species Act protections for eastern black rails. In October, as a result — more than 10 years after the Center petitioned for the species’ protection — the Service finally listed the eastern black rail as threatened. It found that the bird will likely be extinct by 2068 due primarily to wetland habitat destruction from urban and agricultural sprawl.

“If the eastern black rail is going to have any chance at recovery, coastal wetlands must be protected from polluting industries, developers and sea-level rise,” said Kristine Akland, a staff attorney at the Center. “The Trump administration’s ridiculous refusal to identify critical habitat imperils these beautiful birds and should be tossed into the dustbin of history, along with the rest of his wildlife-killing policies.”

The eastern black rail once occurred across much of the eastern United States, but the rapid disappearance of wetlands has caused a steep decline in its populations. Sea-level rise and more frequent extreme weather events — both associated with climate change — put the rail’s habitat at further risk.

Eastern black rail. Photo by Christy Hand, South Carolina Department of Natural Resources. Image is available for media use.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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