For Immediate Release, November 7, 2023
Will Harlan, (828) 230-6818, WHarlan@biologicaldiversity.org
Petition Seeks Endangered Species Act Protection for Coastal Black-Throated Green Warbler
Logging, Climate Change Imperil Bird in Carolinas, Virginia
WILMINGTON, N.C.— The Center for Biological Diversity and partners today filed a legal petition with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to protect the coastal black-throated green warbler (also known as Wayne’s warbler) under the Endangered Species Act. As few as 1,000 of these colorful birds remain in only a few fragmented wetland forests in the Carolinas and Virginia.
“This beautiful songbird is clinging to survival in only a few scattered sites across the South, so we need fast federal action,” said Will Harlan, a senior scientist at the Center. “Without urgent protections, these warblers will spiral further toward extinction.”
The coastal black-throated green warbler is a subspecies of the black-throated green warbler and occurs in one of the country’s most endangered ecosystems — southern coastal wetland forests, which have been logged and drained intensely over the past century.
Coastal black-throated green warblers especially depend on Atlantic white cedar, but these trees have nearly vanished from the South. In the past decade the biomass industry has grown rapidly and specifically targeted Southern coastal forests, which are being logged at a rate four times faster than the Amazon rain forests.
Agriculture, development and climate change further imperil the warbler. Saltwater intrusion and sea-level rise are reaching farther inland, leaving behind skeleton trees and ghost forests. Additionally, the recent Sackett v. EPA Supreme Court decision removes protections for even more of the wetland forests that these warblers need to survive.
As a result, coastal black-throated green warbler populations have plummeted by 90% over the past century. Only seven small, isolated populations remain across its entire three-state range.
Warblers aren’t the only ones harmed by the intensive clearcutting of wetland forests. Frontline rural communities are smothered by toxic pollution from biomass facilities, which are twice as likely to be located in Black and Indigenous communities.
“Protecting this bird will also protect people,” said Harlan. “Safeguards for this bird’s survival will improve the air, water and health of vulnerable communities across the South.”
The Bachman’s warbler, a bird species inhabiting similar Southern wetland forests, was declared extinct this year by the Service. Without immediate Endangered Species Act protections, the coastal black-throated green warbler could soon join them.
Dogwood Alliance, North Carolina Coastal Federation, Coastal Plains Conservation Group, Waccamaw Audubon Society and the Cape Fear Chapter of the National Audubon Society joined the Center in petitioning for the coastal black-throated green warbler to be federally protected.
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.