No extension granted for pygmy-owl review - Tucson Local Media: Pima Pinal

No extension granted for pygmy-owl review

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Posted: Tuesday, July 29, 2008 11:00 pm

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service last week declined to extend a public comment period for a review of the cactus ferruginous pygmy-owl’s potential status as an endangered species, according to a July 22 memo.

The Fish and Wildlife Service had once considered the small, ruddy-colored owl, which makes its home in the saguaro cactus, an endangered species.

But, a group of developers challenged the agency’s contention that Arizona’s contingent of the owls qualified as a distinct subspecies worthy of protection under the federal Endangered Species Act.

A larger number of owls remains in Mexico, but perhaps less than 30 still reside in Arizona, according to scientists.

A lawsuit filed in 2003 by developers challenged the Fish and Wildlife Service’s classification of the Arizona pygmy owls as endangered. A federal court ruled that the agency needed to better explain its rationale for the decision.

Instead, the agency de-listed the birds in 2006, removing from conservationists’ arsenal all the protections afforded by the sweeping Endangered Species Act.

Earlier this year, environmental groups sued the agency to force it to reconsider the owls’ removal from the country’s list of endangered species.

In June, the Fish and Wildlife Service announced it would seek public comments on the matter, setting an Aug. 1 deadline for submissions. A number of people and groups have asked for an extension, but the agency, citing the unofficial nature of its deadline, declined to do so. The agency will, however, continue accepting information about the pygmy-owl’s status until Sept. 30.

Send comments to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Arizona Ecological Services Field Office, 2321 W. Royal Palm Road, Suite 103, Phoenix, Ariz. 85021-4951.

For more information, call Scott Richardson in Tucson at 670-6150, ext. 242, or Sherry Barrett, ext. 223.

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