TUCSON, Arizona (AP) – A small desert owl known to nest in Arizona’s saguaro cactus could get restored federal protection, according to a proposal from federal wildlife officials.
The US Fish and Wildlife Service officially registered a proposal this week to classify the iron pygmy owl cactus as an endangered species, the Arizona Daily Star reported.
Being classified as threatened rather than endangered indicates that authorities believe the owl faces potential danger. Factors that could endanger the owl include climate change, habitat loss, and the presence of invasive species.
The service’s proposal is the culmination of years of petitions and lawsuits filed by environmental groups. In 2017, a federal judge ruled that the wildlife service failed to accurately interpret the endangered species law. Fish and Wildlife subsequently agreed to partner with other groups and conduct a new âspecies status assessmentâ of the owl.
âIt’s a shame he lost his protection for 15 years. It took us another petition and several rounds of litigation to regain its protection, âsaid Noah Greenwald, Endangered Species Director at the Tucson Center for Biological Diversity. âIt’s clear that the owl’s situation has only gotten worse in 15 years. We are happy to have finally prevailed.
An approved list would mean certain restrictions on development around Pima County and elsewhere.
The owl lives in the Sonoran Desert of Arizona, in the neighboring Mexican state of Sonora, and in southern Texas. The brown and white bird is approximately 6.7 inches (17 centimeters) tall.
The pygmy owl was protected as an endangered species from 1997 to 2006, but lost that status following a lawsuit by a developer that resulted in the protection being removed. The Southern Arizona Home Builders Association, which was the plaintiff in this lawsuit, did not influence this development.
“Whenever there is an issue that could make construction more difficult, raise the cost of housing, and set our economy back – like a list of endangered or threatened species – we take it seriously,” he said. declared David Godlewski, president of the association. âAt this point, however, we have only just started to take note of the US Fish & Wildlife Services decision regarding the pygmy owl and we are assessing whether, and to what extent, we will engage.â
The fish and wildlife proposal still has to go through a 60-day public comment period.
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