Subject: SW BIODIVERSITY ALERT
SOUTHWEST BIODIVERSITY ALERT #64
SOUTHWEST CENTER FOR BIOLOGICAL DIVERSITY
silver city, tucson, phoenix, san diego
1. ONE WIN, ONE LOSS AT BLUE RIDGE DAM
2. NORTHERN GOSHAWK E.S.A. HEARING MOVED TO MAY 5TH
3. USFWS ENCOURAGES HCPs FOR ENDANGERED PYGMY OWL-
ONLY 20 BIRDS LEFT IN AZ
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ONE WIN, ONE LOSS AT BLUE RIDGE DAM
A federal judge has ruled against a motion by Phelps Dodge to
dismiss a lawsuit by the Southwest Center seeking a comprehensive
review of its Blue Ridge Dam in central Arizona. The judge also
ruled that the Federal Energy and Regulatory Commission be released
from the suit because it can only be sued in the 9th Circuit. The
charges against the U.S. Forest Service remain.
The Center is attempting to force an E.S.A. consultation on the
operations of the dam, including all interbasin water transfers for its
effects on the threatened Little Colorado River spinedace. The FWS
requested the consultation in 1992 but has been ignored by the Forest
Service and FERC.
The Blue Ridge Dam is used by Phelps Dodge to capture and divert
water from East Clear Creek (in the Little Colorado River basin) into
the East Verde River (in the Gila River basin). This interbasin water
transfer is designed to mitigate another Phelps Dodge interbasin
transfer from the Black River to Eagle Creek. From Eagle Creek, the
water is pumped into Phelps Dodge's Morenci mine.
NORTHERN GOSHAWK E.S.A. HEARING MOVED TO MAY 5TH
Oral hearings in a Southwest Center lawsuit to overturn the U.S. Fish
and Wildlife Service's refusal to consider listing the Northern
goshawk as endangered in the western U.S. have been moved to
March 5, 1997. The agency claims that the western population does
not qualify for listing under the ESA because there are three
subspecies in the west. Biologists at the Arizona field office, however,
recommended a positive ruling.
A similar negative finding was overturned last year by the same
USFWS ENCOURAGES HCPs FOR ENDANGERED PYGMY OWL-
ONLY 20 BIRDS LEFT IN AZ
Owl Protection Won't Halt Growth, Just Lessen Scale, Officials
By Tony Davis The Arizona Daily Star 4/6/97
For months developers have feared a tiny owl would stop or slow
growth on Tucson's northwest side.
But federal officials say growth won't be stopped, only scaled
back, as they negotiate with, rather than regulate, developers.
Under federal law, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has broad
powers to protect the endangered cactus ferruginous pygmy owl from
developers, cities and industries that bulldoze cacti where the owl
nests, or pump down the aquifer that nourishes the riverfront trees
where they perch.
The Wildlife Service and state Game and Fish Department say they
will negotiate with developers.
Service officials predict that protecting the owl will cause developers
to scale back or move some of their projects, but they don't expect any
projects to be stopped.
The owl, standing less than 7 inches tall and weighing barely 2
ounces, recently was armed with the full force of federal Endangered
Species Act protection.
In late February, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed the bird as
endangered. On March 14, a federal judge ordered the service to
designate 290 miles of Southern Arizona rivers and streams as the
owl's critical habitat.
The owl's two biggest battlegrounds are likely to be Honey Bee
Canyon, where developers plan to build nearly 500 homes, and the
Tortolita Mountains foothills, site of the planned 9,000-home
As recently as three years ago, federal biologists thought firewood
cutting, ground-water pumping and land-clearing for development
had virtually wiped out the owl in Arizona. But last year, state
biologists found 12 to 19 owls in surveys in desert scrub on Tucson's
Environmentalists are pushing to set aside the scrub land as critical
habitat, and the Fish and Wildlife Service may go along.
Or the service may decide to appeal the March 14 court ruling that
extended critical habitat protection to the owl, the jaguar, the
Southwestern willow flycatcher and three other species. As of late last
week, it hadn't announced a decision.
But federal officials are talking about using habitat conservation
plans to protect the owl. They often allow developers to blade a
portion of a species' habitat in return for agreeing to protect the rest.
The state will also try to persuade landowners to grant conservation
easements. In those, an owner donates or sells parts of his land, or his
development rights to that land, to protect species.
Another tactic will be ``safe harbor'' agreements. In those, landowners
agree to protect endangered wildlife's habitat indefinitely, with a
proviso that they can back out at some unknown date, should they
desire to start bulldozing the land for development.
By then, the federal government hopes, it would have been able to
move some of the endangered birds or plants to a site offering
`I think the effect of the critical habitat decision will be huge,''
[Alan] Lurie [Southern Arizona Home Builders Association's president] said.
``It is not only the major tributaries but the smaller feeder streams that
will be affected. If you map that out, it is significant parcels of land
all over Arizona.''
But if that happens, says environmentalist Kieran Suckling,
``developers may end up making $9 million instead of $10 million
next year, but so what?''
``Yeah, the owl is going to bite into their bottom line a little bit,''
added Suckling, executive director of the Southwest Center for
Biological Diversity, the group whose petition and lawsuits led directly
to federal protection of the owl. ``It will provide for a better
quality of life, for endangered species and for a river.''
Suckling says habitat conservation plans won't work for the pygmy
owl. That's because only 20 of the birds are known to exist in
A larger population lives in South Texas, where the Fish and Wildlife
Service opted not to list the bird as endangered.
``If you take one spotted owl, that will not wipe out the species,''
Suckling said. ``But with pygmy owls, you can't just kill one. There's
so little riparian habitat or ironwood forest left that you can't justify
taking any more of that.''
Service biologist Mary Richardson said the agency will evaluate each
proposed development near a known owl site individually, to see if a
habitat plan will work for it.
If the Fish and Wildlife Service wanted to take a bold stance toward
the owl, Suckling said, it would quickly draw up a recovery plan
spelling out exactly what protection would be offered.
The recovery plan is a linchpin of federal endangered species
protection, because it says what is needed to save a fish or bird so it
can be pulled off the endangered list.
``The developers would know in advance what is OK or not OK,''
But the Fish and Wildlife Service is moving slowly on many
endangered species issues these days, because of tight budgets.
The service hasn't come up with a recovery plan for the endangered
Southwestern willow flycatcher, for instance, even though it's been
more than two years since that bird made the endangered list.
And in defending against the Center's lawsuit asking for habitat
protection of the owl and the other species, the service's attorneys
admitted falling a year or more behind congressional deadlines to
protect those creatures. They said Congress hadn't appropriated
enough money for the service to hire adequate staff.
Last week, Spiller said he doesn't know when the service will have
recovery plans for the owl or the flycatcher.
Kieran Suckling email@example.com
Executive Director 505.733.1391 phone
Southwest Center for Biological Diversity 505.733.1404 fax
http://www.envirolink.org/orgs/sw-center pob 17839, tucson, az 85731