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For Immediate Release, August 12, 2011

Contact: Noah Greenwald, (503) 484-7495

2,000+ Stream Miles of Critical Habitat Proposed for Protection of Endangered Desert Bird

Southwestern Willow Flycatcher to Gain Ground in Arizona, California, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah

TUCSON, Ariz. In response to a lawsuit brought by the Center for Biological Diversity, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today proposed 2,090 stream miles as protected critical habitat for the endangered southwestern willow flycatcher. If finalized, today’s proposal would substantially increase protection for the rare bird over a previous designation of 730 stream miles finalized by the Bush administration in 2005 and challenged by the Center.

“With today’s proposal, the southwestern willow flycatcher has a shot at survival,” said Noah Greenwald, the Center’s endangered species director. “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.”

The proposed designation includes numerous important and well-known rivers, including the San Gabriel, Ventura, San Diego, Virgin, Colorado, Little Colorado, Gila, Rio Grande, and San Pedro.

“Protection of southwestern rivers for the flycatcher will benefit hundreds of other species and millions of people, too, who depend on these rivers for water and recreation,” said Greenwald. “There are so many benefits, economic and otherwise, of protecting endangered species that are often underappreciated.” 

The Fish and Wildlife Service is still considering excluding 779 stream miles it says are “already being managed to accommodate or advance flycatcher recovery through Habitat Conservation Plans, tribal management, and other partnerships.”

“Although we support the efforts of local governments or other entities to conserve habitat for the flycatcher, we believe all 2,090 stream miles should be designated as critical habitat,” said Greenwald. “In many cases, ongoing conservation efforts for flycatchers don’t take into account recovery of the rare songbird, or they’re voluntary and therefore uncertain.”

The flycatcher was listed as an endangered species in 1995 in response to a petition from the Center. According to a 2007 survey, there are roughly 1,299 territories spread across the species range with substantial populations on the upper Gila River and middle Rio Grande in New Mexico, Roosevelt Lake and the lower San Pedro in Arizona and numerous scattered locations in California.

Background on the Flycatcher
The flycatcher is a small, neotropical migrant bird that breeds in streamside forests of Southern California, southern Nevada, southern Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, western Texas and extreme northwestern Mexico. Within this range, the flycatcher has lost more than 90 percent of its habitat to dams, water withdrawal, livestock grazing, urban sprawl and other factors.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 320,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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