Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, December 28, 2017

Contact: Michael Robinson, (575) 313-7017,

Southwestern Willow Flycatcher Keeps Endangered Species Protection

Flawed Attempt to Strip Songbird of Protection Shot Down

PHOENIX— In response to a petition from the extreme private-property rights group the Pacific Legal Foundation, the Trump administration today determined that the southwestern willow flycatcher should retain protection as an endangered species. 

“The fact that the Pacific Legal Foundation could not even sway the Trump administration shows just how loony its argument really is,” said Michael Robinson, a conservation advocate at the Center for Biological Diversity. “We’re relieved the precious southwestern willow flycatcher and the streamside habitats it needs to survive will stay protected.”

Based on the work of a scientist who does not believe the well-documented existence of subspecies in birds — a category that includes Darwin’s famous finches — the flawed petition argued that the flycatcher was not a valid entity worthy of protection. But U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service scientists rejected that view, upholding Endangered Species Act protections for the songbird that were put in place in 1995.

The agency rejected a similar petition by the same extreme group to strip protections from the coastal California gnatcatcher in 2016, and the group has now taken the agency to court. The Center and other conservation groups have intervened on behalf of the government. Another Pacific Legal Foundation petition to strip the Preble’s meadow jumping mouse of protection awaits a decision; the Center has filed a counter-petition to ensure the jumping mouse stays protected.

“The Pacific Legal Foundation doesn’t seem to care much about the validity of the science in their petitions,” said Robinson. “And they seem to care even less about the diversity of species that sustains and enriches our lives. We’ll fight their attempts to defile nature at every turn.”

The flycatcher is a small, neotropical migratory 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 forces.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.6 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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