Today’s action is a long overdue step in the right direction for this little owl which has been bereft of the protections of the Endangered Species Act years for nearly two decades. Habitat loss, the border wall and climate change all present grave threats to this bird, and the listing recognizes this reality.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today announced the cactus ferruginous pygmy owl will be relisted as a threatened species, after being taken off for 17 years. The relisting was triggered by a Defenders of Wildlife petition in 2007 and a lawsuit in 2012. The Service challenged listing the subspecies as threatened or endangered until 2011 following a court-ordered redo of its initial 2007 species assessment.
“Today’s action is a long overdue step in the right direction for this little owl that has been bereft of the protections of the Endangered Species Act for nearly two decades.” said Bryan Bird, Defenders of Wildlife Southwest program director. “Habitat loss, the border wall and climate change all present grave threats to this bird, and the listing recognizes this reality.”
The pygmy owl was protected as an endangered species from 1997 to 2006, before a home builders’ lawsuit stripped its protections for development and halted monitoring efforts. The 2006 decision was not based on improvement to the pygmy owl’s population but rather on the flawed argument that the Sonoran Desert population was insignificant.
Defenders of Wildlife fought to reinstate protections for the owl as the species continues to be threatened by sprawling development, noxious weeds, livestock grazing, and increasingly frequent droughts brought on by climate change. The species is also imperiled by the border wall, which fragments owl populations, and invasive plants, such as buffelgrass, which accelerate fires that destroy its habitat and food sources.
“It is our hope that in the 17 years that have passed, the federal government and nonprofit organizations will finally have the required tools to help save this unique owl,” Bird concluded.