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Feds: Relax protections for woodpecker endangered since 1970

Red-cockaded woodpeckers were once found from New Jersey to Florida and east to Texas. The remaining birds are now scattered around 11 states.
Credit: AP
FILE - In this July 30, 2019, file photo, a red-cockaded woodpecker looks to a biologist as it is released back into in a long leaf pine forest at Fort Bragg in North Carolina. A bird declared endangered in 1970 -- the red-cockaded woodpecker, which taps pine sap to protect babies from snakes and gets its sons to help care for the next clutch of nestlings -- has recovered enough to relax federal protection, officials said Friday, Sept. 25, 2020. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty, File)

FORT BENNING, Ga. — Federal officials say a woodpecker declared endangered half a century ago has recovered enough to relax federal protections. 

An environmental group official says nothing he's seen so far justifies the change. 

Although the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service told landowners in April there was a chance of dropping all protection for red-cockaded woodpeckers, it is instead proposing to list them as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. 

U.S. Interior Secretary David Bernhardt and Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue scheduled an announcement Friday at Fort Benning, Georgia. 

Red-cockaded woodpeckers were once found from New Jersey to Florida and east to Texas. The remaining birds are now scattered around 11 states.