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Habitat eyed for endangered flycatcher
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing to revise critical habitat for an endangered migratory bird, the southwestern willow flycatcher, which would include areas along the Colorado River.
The proposal is in response to a lawsuit brought by the Center for Biological Diversity this month.
“Like so many species dependent on the rivers and streams of the Southwest, the southwestern willow flycatcher is on the brink of extinction and urgently needs more habitat protection,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species program director of the center.
According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the flycatcher is a small passerine bird placed on the federal Endangered Species List in 1995. Based on recent surveys coordinated by various state and federal agencies, between 900 and 1,000 breeding pairs remain throughout the streamside forests of southern California, southern Nevada, southern Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, western Texas and extreme northwestern Mexico.
The proposed revision identifies 2,090 stream miles within the 100-year floodplain of waters in California, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, Colorado and New Mexico as critical habitat. Of the total proposal, approximately 779 stream miles are being considered for exclusion from the final critical habitat designation.
“We believe all 2,090 stream miles should be designated as critical habitat,” Greenwald said.
A critical habitat designation identifies area important to the conservation of federally listed threatened or endangered species. It requires federal agencies to consult with the Fish and Wildlife on any of their actions that may affect critical habitat in designated areas.
According to the Center for Biological Diversity, the proposal would substantially increase protection for the rare bird over a previous designation of 730 stream miles finalized by the Bush administration in 2005.
Public comment on the new proposal, including exclusions, is being sought through Oct. 14. For more information, log on to www.fws.gov/southwest.
Chris McDaniel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 539-6849.