200,000 Acres Protected for Southwestern Willow Flycatchers in California, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah and Nevada
In response to litigation by the Center for Biological Diversity, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife today designated 208,973 acres, along 1,227 miles of river, as protected critical habitat for endangered southwestern willow flycatchers, small, rare songbirds that depend on desert rivers to survive. The protected habitat was established in six states — California, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah and Nevada — along several well-known rivers, including the Rio Grande, Gila, Virgin, Santa Ana, San Diego and others.
"Protection of critical habitat for this tiny, unique bird could make a crucial difference to its survival, and also gives urgently needed help to the Southwest's beleaguered rivers," said Noah Greenwald, the Center's endangered species director. "For all of us who love our desert rivers, this protection is great news."
This is the third designation of critical habitat for the flycatcher. The first designation —599 river miles in 1997 — was challenged by the New Mexico Cattle Growers' Association, resulting in protection of more miles rather than fewer — 730 miles in 2005 — by the Bush administration. The Center challenged this designation, arguing that it failed to consider hundreds of miles of rivers identified in a scientific recovery plan for the flycatcher. That challenge resulted in today's designation of 1,227 miles of river as protected habitat.
"Like so many desert plants and animals, southwestern willow flycatchers have suffered from the wanton destruction of rivers by livestock grazing, mining, urban sprawl and overuse," said Greenwald. "We have to take better care of our rivers."
Article continues at Center for Biological Diversity
Willow Flycatcher image via Shutterstock