| BUSH/NORTON PLAN WOULD
LEAVE PYGMY OWLS OUT OF CRITICAL HABITAT
April 16, 2003
CONTACT: Martin Taylor, Ph.D., Conservation Biologist,
520 623 5252 x 307
TUCSON, ARIZONA: Location data for the Cactus Ferruginous
Pygmy Owl recently
released by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reveal that the recently proposed
critical habitat area does not even include all known owl locations.
After a lawsuit in Washington DC by a national developers
lobby, Fish and
Wildlife Service was ordered to release historical and recent locations.
biologist and member of the Recovery Team Dr Martin Taylor analyzed the
released data and discovered that the area of critical habitat proposed
and Wildlife leaves out 12% of recent owl locations.
The law says critical habitat is supposed to
include not just all the occupied
areas, but unoccupied areas that they can expand into as they start to
But this proposal doesnt even meet the first test Taylor explained.
Locations from different periods were extracted from
newly released documents,
entered into a database and analyzed using Geographic Information Systems,
shown on the attached map. It was found that:-
- Of 170 discrete locations stretching back to
the late 1800s, 46 (27%) fall
outside of proposed critical habitat. 138 discrete locations have
since 1990, and of these, 17 (12%) fall outside of the proposed critical
- Owls went extinct in Maricopa county as recently
as the 1980s, and many recent
surveys have failed to turn up survivors. The areas where they used
to be found
have been largely paved over or channelized by development and agriculture.
- Owls were found nearly to Clifton on the Gila
River and around Dudleyville on
the San Pedro River as recently as the 1980s, but few surveys for
owls seem to
have been done since. Owls may still be present and yet no critical
in place to protect them.
- Owls were found in the 1990s in the canyons east
of Tucson, in northwest
Tucson just outside the edges of critical habitat, and near Patagonia
none of these areas are included in critical habitat.
- Locations for owls on Organ Pipe Cactus National
Monument and Saguaro National
Park and perhaps also on other Federal Lands are still being withheld
Fish and Wildlife Service. However, owls have previously been reported
in Organ Pipe and likely also to occur in Saguaro National Park, and
portions of these areas are also left out of critical habitat.
The Center is concerned that with only 18 owls left,
the Bush administration is
denying the owls desperately needed critical habitat that could mean the
difference between recovery or extinction.
We did another analysis of nearly 700 endangered
species and found that
populations were much more likely to be recovering if they had critical
Taylor revealed, referring to an analysis showing that species
habitat were 9% less likely to be declining in population numbers and
more likely to be improving than species without critical habitat in the
survey of population status done by the Fish and Wildlife Service.
Critical habitat has been amputated by the Bush
administration at a time when
owl numbers are plummeting and development is wiping out their habitat
northwest Tucson, Taylor added.
Fish and Wildlife Service reported only 18 owls were
found last year, half of
the number found in 2001. The pygmy owl was declared endangered in 1997,
years after the original petition was filed by the Center in 1992. Major
to the owl and its habitat are urban development, agriculture, loss of
historical streamside habitat due to aquifer depletion, dams and diversions,
livestock grazing, and disturbances such as construction, vehicles and
releases. . .