Environment Canada has declared that the Red-Headed Woodpecker is now an endangered species. Part of their recovery plan for the woodpecker includes $1 million fines for companies that destroy the bird’s habitat.
Cabinet stated in a legal notice that it has changed the species's status from threatened to endangered, under the Species at Risk Act. According to the federal Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada, the number of Red-Headed Woodpeckers in Manitoba and Ontario has now dropped below 4000, according to Blacklock's Reporter.
Dr Ken Rosenberg of New York’s Cornell Lab says “this is a striking bird. I have seen them and they are beautiful."
A new recovery plan will be drafted by cabinet, as the bird’s new listing “triggers mandatory recovery planning by the Minister in order to address threats to the survival or recovery of the listed species.”
Part of that new recovery plan will include fines of $1 million for those who violate restrictions set forward in the recovery plan. The notice states that “Many people derive well-being from simply knowing that a species exists now and in the future,” and “Society places substantial value on vulnerable species and especially charismatic, symbolic or emblematic species.”
Staff wrote that “The Red-Headed Woodpecker is a charismatic species that provides a recreational value to birdwatchers,”. An official estimate shows that the woodpeckers population has decreased by about 58 percent since by 1970
Dr. Rosenberg stated that “No other woodpecker has an all-red head... They are unusual in that they like to sit at the very top of a tree, fly-catching. You see them in the sky, and it’s a flash of black and white with the bright crimson head.” He also says that “It is possible to recover these populations. That’s exactly why this process exists. People have always had an attraction and love of birds, and we hope it translates into efforts at conservation.”
However, federal designation of endangered species has previously caused conflicts with certain corporations. In 2015, the Western Chorus Frog was designated an endangered species, and that resulted in the construction of a $22.9 million subdivision in la Prairie, Quebec to be halted.
The project’s developers complained that protecting the breeding ponds would result in the unfinished subdivision lands to be commercially worthless. The city of La Prairie received a permit from the provincial government to drain the swamps so that the development project could go forward.
This was done after environmental activists successfully petitioned the Federal Court to halt the project. In his ruling, Federal Justice Luc Martineau stated that “Suburban sprawl and changes in farming practices are contributing to the ongoing destruction of Western Chorus Frog habitats and are thereby threatening the species’ survival in Canada.”