The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has once again revised critical habitat for the southwestern willow flycatcher, an endangered migratory bird that has been the subject of two decades of legal wrangling.
The new habitat designation, issued Jan. 2, covers 208,973 acres along 1,227 miles of rivers and streams in six states, including California. A response to a lawsuit filed by the Center for Biological Diversity, the new designation is a significant increase over the previous two but less than the 2,090 miles the agency proposed last year.
The flycatcher, which winters in southern Mexico and Central America, nests in dense growth along rivers and streams in Southern California, Arizona, New Mexico and the southern parts of Nevada, Utah and Colorado. It was first listed as endangered in 1995. Two years later, the Fish and Wildlife Service designated critical habitat along 599 miles in Arizona, California and New Mexico.
The New Mexico Cattle Growers’ Assn. challenged the rule, and in 2005 fish and wildlife revised the designation — though not the way the cattlemen wanted. Protected habitat was expanded to 737 miles. But that was too little for the Center for Biological Diversity, which had petitioned for the initial listing and challenged the 2005 revision in court.