Center for Biological Diversity
Protecting endangered species and wild
places of western North America
March 26, 2001
COLORADO GROUPS TO JOIN MEXICAN SPOTTED OWL CRITICAL HABITAT SUIT
The Center for Native Ecosystems, based in Boulder, today joined Tucson based environmental group Center for Biological Diversity and others in officially notifying the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) of their intent to sue over the agency's critical habitat designation for the Mexican spotted owl under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The designation, which was published in the Federal Register on February 1, covers 4.6 acres of federally owned land in Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, and Colorado, including approximately 525,000 acres in Colorado. The groups will bring suit because the final rule eliminated nearly 9 million acres of land from the proposed rule, and improperly excluded many areas where the owl is known to exist or has existed historically.
Designated critical habitat in Colorado is comprised of two units: one on the Pike and San Isabel National Forests and the other within the Royal Gorge Resource Area administered by the Bureau of Land Management. Areas which were excluded from the designation despite current owl presence include National Forest and National Park administered land in the Southwest portion of the state, including Mesa Verde National Park and the San Juan National Forest. Additionally, areas along the Front Range as far north as Fort Collins were excluded despite ample historical records of owl occurrence. [jacob quote]
The inadequacy of the habitat designation is merely the latest example of FWS refusal to grant proper protection to the Mexican spotted owl. The Center for Biological Diversity has engaged in over 10 years of intensive research and litigation on behalf of the owl, first filing a petition to list the imperiled raptor in 1989. Despite the fact that 90% of known owls live in the National Forests of Arizona and New Mexico, no acres within the Forests were designated as critical habitat. "Fish and Wildlife's betrayal of the Mexican spotted owl is a classic example of the agency's systematic subterfuge of the Endangered Species Act," stated Brian Segee, forest watch coordinator with CBD. "This designation will clearly not help the owl recover or even maintain a stable population," continued Segee.
The Mexican spotted owl was listed as Threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 1993. At the time of listing, the total estimated population was 2,160 owls. One of three spotted owl subspecies, its range extends from the southern Rocky Mountains in Colorado and the Colorado Plateau in Utah southward through Arizona and New Mexico into the Sierra Madres in Mexico. Heavy logging and resultant habitat degradation in Arizona and New Mexico was the primary factor necessitating listing. Today, the owl continues to be threatened by logging practices, as well as domestic livestock grazing, mining operations, recreational developments, and fire.