"They have literally thumbed their nose at the laws and the science," Short said Wednesday from Colorado. "Ecosystem management is almost non-existent. They are trying to turn the forest into a tree farm and they are not considering the aftereffects."
Forest Service officials declined to comment and referred questions to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The Fish and Wildlife Service will have 90 days to determine if there is substantial reason to believe a listing may be warranted, said Robert Moler, an agency spokesman in Sacramento. If so, an additional yearlong review would determine whether to list the bird as threatened or endangered.
The Forest Service considers the black-backed woodpecker an indicator species for the overall health of forest habitat recently burned in the Sierra. It's similar to the northern spotted owl's designation as an indicator for old-growth forests in the Pacific Northwest. The owl was declared threatened in 1990.
Other subspecies of black-backed woodpeckers live in burned forests stretching along the Canadian border, from Washington state and British Columbia to the Northern Rockies and the northernmost parts of the Upper Midwest and northern New England.
Those birds are "not doing terribly well," Hanson said. But he said they are connected to Canadian boreal forests farther north, whereas the two genetically distinct populations in the Sierra/Cascades and Black Hills are much smaller and "genetically isolated."
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