| For immediate release: May 11, 2006
Groups Challenge Bush Administration
Tucson, Ariz. – The Center for Biological Diversity and Defenders of Wildlife filed a lawsuit today against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over the agency’s decision to remove the cactus ferruginous pygmy-owl from the federal list of endangered species. The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Tucson and includes a request for a temporary restraining order to prevent the delisting of the pygmy-owl from going into effect this Monday, May 15.
“The decision to strip protections from one of America’s most imperiled species sends a clear message to the people of Arizona and the nation: the Bush administration cares nothing for wildlife or nature and will aggressively abuse its authority to dispose of our natural heritage,” said David Hogan, Urban Wildlands Director for the Center for Biological Diversity. “Next on the firing line will be the gray wolf, grizzly bear and sea turtle. The decision to de-list the owl is anti-science, anti-conservation, and shows a profound disrespect for the American people’s love of nature and wildlife.”
“With only 13 known pygmy-owls left in Arizona, the species faces imminent extinction,” said Jenny Neeley, Southwest Representative of Defenders of Wildlife. “The decision by the Bush administration to eliminate all ESA protections for the owl and its habitat will guarantee its demise. We have no choice but to file a lawsuit to overturn a gross political maneuver that endangers our country’s wildlife.”
The administration’s decision follows a 2003 ruling by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that found the Fish and Wildlife Service failed to adequately explain its decision to list the pygmy-owl in Arizona but not in Mexico. Notably, the court acknowledged that the pygmy-owl is threatened with extinction in Arizona and did not order removal of Endangered Species Act protections. Instead, the court ordered the Fish and Wildlife Service to further consider and explain its decision to protect the owl. Unfortunately, rather than simply addressing the court’s concerns and reaffirming the owl’s legal status as an endangered species, the Bush administration seized the opportunity to strip the pygmy-owl of all Endangered Species Act protections, notwithstanding the fact that the best available science clearly establishes that the species is on the brink of extinction in Arizona.