No. 285, 10/8/2001 1044

PYGMY OWL HOLDS ONTO LISTING PROTECTION, LOSES CRITICAL HABITAT

Last month a federal judge removed pygmy owl critical habitat designation of over 730,000 acres in Southern Arizona, but uphleld its listing as a federally endangered species. U.S. District Court Judge Susan R. Bolton ruled that the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service failed to adequately study possible economic impacts when the agency designated critical habitat for the cactus ferruginous pygmy owl in 1999.

The ruling stems from a suit filed by the Southern Arizona Homebuilders Association (SAHBA), the National Association of Homebuilders, and the Homebuilders Association of Southern Arizona last year. The developers failed in their effort to get a ruling removing the cactus ferruginous pygmy owl from federal listing as endangered in Arizona.

The judge ruled that the federal agency could limit owl population counts to those in Arizona. Developers' attorneys argued unsuccessfully that the owl population in northern Mexico also should be included in counts determining whether the pygmy owl is actually an endangered species.