Environmentalists sue to reinstate critical habitat for bird

The Associated Press
Saturday March 23, 2002

SAN FRANCISCO — Environmentalists are suing the federal government to have it re-protect the habitat of a songbird found in the Southwest that has been reduced to about 500 pairs. 

The southwestern willow flycatcher was listed as endangered in 1995, and its critical habitat, which included 599 miles of rivers in New Mexico, Arizona and California, was designated in 1997. 

But that designation was reversed by the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in 2001, with the court ordering the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to redo its economic analysis of the impact of the designation. 

The new suit, filed a week ago, asks the service to complete the analysis and designate 1,200 miles of river in New Mexico, Arizona, Utah and California as critical habitat for the flycatcher. 

Brent Plater, an attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity, which filed the suit, said the service is moving too slow. 

“The order the judge provided didn’t give a specific timeline to complete the new analysis,” he said. “Without a court order with a specific deadline, the Fish and Wildlife Service won’t do these things.” 

But Elizabeth Slown, a spokeswoman for the service, said it is gathering information and still must receive public comment. 

“We’re having to start from scratch again,” she said. “It’s not a fast process.” 

The suit was filed in U.S. district court in San Francisco.