Groups Challenge Decision to Drop Protection for Few Remaining Pygmy-owls

Defenders of Wildlife • Center for Biological Diversity •
Arizona Audubon Council

For Immediate Release
April 25, 2006


Contact: Jenny Neeley, Defenders of Wildlife 520-623-9653 x102
Mike Senatore, Litigation Director, Defenders of Wildlife 202-682-9400
David Hogan, Center for Biological Diversity 760-809-9244
Daniel Patterson, Center for Biological Diversity, 520-906-2159
Karen O’Neil, President, Arizona Audubon Council, 928-778-3018


Groups Challenge Decision to Drop Protection
for Few Remaining Pygmy-owls

Tucson, AZ –Defenders of Wildlife, the Center for Biological Diversity, and the Arizona Audubon Council, representing all eight Audubon chapters in the state, today filed an official notice of intent to sue the US Fish and Wildlife Service over its decision to remove the cactus ferruginous pygmy-owl from the federal list of endangered species. With only 13 known pygmy-owls left in Arizona, the species faces imminent extinction, and the decision by the Bush administration to eliminate all ESA protections for the owl and its habitat will guarantee its demise.

“The decision to delist the owl is in clear violation the Endangered Species Act, which obligates the agency to protect species threatened with extinction in the United States,” said Jenny Neeley, southwest representative of Defenders of Wildlife. “If this rule is allowed to stand, what is to stop the Bush administration from removing protections for many other species, including the wolf, grizzly bear and sea turtles, which are imperiled in the United States, but exist in other countries?”

The administration’s decision follows a 2003 ruling by the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals that the Fish and Wildlife Service had failed to adequately explain its decision to list the pygmy-owl in Arizona but not in Mexico. Notably, the court acknowledged that the pygmy-owl was threatened with extinction in Arizona and did not order that the pygmy-owl be delisted from the Endangered Species Act. Instead, the court remanded the matter to the Fish and Wildlife Service for further consideration and explanation. Unfortunately, instead of simply addressing the court’s concerns and reaffirming the owl’s legal status as an endangered species, the Bush administration seized this opportunity to strip the pygmy-owl of all Endangered Species Act protections, notwithstanding the fact that the best available science clearly establishes that the species is on the brink of extinction in Arizona.

“This is nothing more than another political maneuver by the Bush administration, at the expense of this country’s wildlife,” said David Hogan, Urban Wildlands Director for the Center for Biological Diversity. “The decision to delist the owl is anti-science, anti-conservation, and shows a profound disrespect for the American people’s love of nature and wildlife.”