In 2012, the John Muir Project (JMP) and the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) wrote and filed a Petition to list the California/Oregon and Black Hills (South Dakota) subspecies of the Black-backed Woodpecker as threatened or endangered under the Federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) in order to protect this rare bird from further habitat loss on Federal Public Lands due to the practices of post-fire logging and fire suppression.
One pair of Black-backed Woodpeckers generally needs at least 200 acres, typically with at least 100 standing fire-killed trees per acre, on average, in order to have enough of their prey–native wood-boring beetle larvae which live under the bark of fire-killed trees–to survive. Once relatively common, before fire suppression and post-fire logging, this species is now extremely rare, and there are no meaningful protections for its habitat on either public or private lands. It is estimated that as few as 1000 pairs remain in California (600 pairs)/Oregon (400 pairs) with less than 500 pairs remaining in Black Hills of South Dakota.
One year after the Petition was filed, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) determined that there is sufficient scientific evidence to conclude that listing the these two Black-backed Woodpecker subspecies under the federal ESA “may be warranted”. A final determination will be issued by USFWS in 2017.