Exactly one day after I wrote a post holding out some hope for the ivory-billed woodpecker, the US government has spoken: there isn't any. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has declared 23 species of fish and birds are gone.
The ivory-bill, of course, is the star example. Should it be declared extinct? The last officially confirmed sighting was in 1944, but sightings, bark damage characteristic of the ivory-bill, and recordings of the tin-horn "kent" call have sparked numerous searches and a slender thread of hope.
There's another consideration, one I hadn't thought of. A Cornell University bird biologist named John Fitzpatrick thinks so. As quoted on ecowatch.com and other media, he said, "Little is gained and much is lost," by such a declaration. "A bird this iconic, and this representative of the major old-growth forests of the southeast, keeping it on the list of endangered species keeps attention on it, keeps states thinking about managing habitat on the off chance it still exists."
Maybe an off-chance is all we can ask.