For Immediate Release, January 14, 2010
Contact: Noah Greenwald, (503) 484-7495
More Critical Habitat Protections on the Way for Southwestern Willow Flycatcher
Tucson, Ariz.— In response to a lawsuit brought by the Center for Biological Diversity, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agreed today to reconsider designation of critical habitat for the endangered southwestern willow flycatcher, while at the same time maintaining existing protections. In 2004, scientists in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed more than 376,000 acres of critical habitat for the flycatcher, but the Bush administration only approved roughly 120,000 acres. Today’s victory could provide protections for those much-needed additional acres.
“Like so many species dependent on the rivers and streams of the Southwest, the southwestern willow flycatcher is on the brink of extinction and needs protection of more habitat if it is to survive,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species program director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Today’s agreement is a victory for the flycatcher and Southwest rivers.”
The flycatcher was listed as an endangered species in response to a 1993 petition from the Center. Critical habitat was first designated in 1997, but was challenged by industry and redesignated in 2005. That redesignation was then challenged by the Center, resulting in today’s agreement. The latest designation failed to include 77 percent of the river miles identified in a science-based recovery plan developed by the Fish and Wildlife Service, failing to include, for example, the entire lower Colorado River, upper San Pedro River, Santa Clara River, and much of the Rio Grande.
“The Bush administration did its utmost to provide the least possible amount of protection to endangered species, and the flycatcher was no exception,” said Greenwald. “Today’s agreement is the latest in a slew of reversals of Bush-era decisions, including a decision this week to give critical habitat to the jaguar in the United States.”
The Center for Biological Diversity has been actively working to overturn Bush decisions limiting protection for endangered species, including suing to overturn decisions affecting 55 species. To date, this campaign has been highly successful, with the Obama administration agreeing to reconsider 46 of the 54 decisions, including the flycatcher.
With 2010 being the International Year of Biodiversity, the Center has identified the flycatcher as one of the 1,000 most endangered species that need saving. Today’s agreement is the first victory of many to come in the campaign to save these species. The Center was represented in the challenge of flycatcher critical habitat by Geoff Hickox of the Western Environmental Law Center.
Background on the Flycatcher
The flycatcher is a small, neotropical migrant bird that breeds in streamside forests of Southern California, southern Nevada, southern Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, western Texas, and extreme northwestern Mexico. Within this range, the flycatcher has lost more than 90 percent of its habitat to dams, water withdrawal, livestock grazing, urban sprawl, and other factors. It was listed as an endangered species in 1995. Critical habitat was reduced by 68 percent, from 376,095 acres to 120,824 acres.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 255,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.