Wednesday is set to be a sad day for nearly two dozen endangered species, with all hope gone that we'll ever see them again. Federal wildlife authorities are expected to announce that the ivory-billed woodpecker, Bachman's warbler, and 20 other animals, as well as one plant, are now officially extinct, reports the New York Times. Among the doomed species—many of which officials say have likely been extinct for decades—are 11 birds, eight types of freshwater mussel, two fish, a bat, and the lone plant.
Declaring a species extinct isn't a decision that's made on the fly. In the cases noted here, many of the animals haven't been seen since the '80s. One of the Hawaiian birds on the list was last spotted in 1899. "When I see one of those really rare ones, it's always in the back of my mind that I might be the last one to see this animal again," FWS biologist Andy Ford, who specializes in freshwater mussels, tells the AP. The ivory-billed woodpecker—aka the "Lord God Bird," last officially seen in Louisiana in 1944, per the Washington Post—was sought with special passion. "I literally cried," another FWS biologist, Amy Trahan, tells the Times of when she had to make her recent recommendation on extinction.
The Times notes that saying goodbye to these creatures forever may offer "a glimpse of the future," and it's not a good one for biodiversity on Earth. Thanks to humans mining, farming, logging, and otherwise encroaching upon habitats across the globe, in addition to poaching and climate change, as many as 1 million plant and animal species may now be at risk of extinction. "It's a sobering reminder that extinction is a consequence of human-caused environmental change," a US Fish and Wildlife Service spokesperson tells the paper.
The Endangered Species Act, designed to conserve and protect wildlife and plants that are in trouble, as well as their habitats, was passed in 1973, and since its passage, more than 100 species have been upgraded from "endangered" to "threatened," or removed from the endangered list completely. For the 23 species on Wednesday's list, however, the legislation was too late. The ruling on these 23 species will be made official after a 60-day public comment period that begins Thursday. (Read more extinct stories.)