Lawsuit Filed Seeking Protection for Tiny Owl, Challenging New Policy Restricting Listing of Imperilled Species

On behalf of the Center for Biological Diversity and Defenders of Wildlife we have filed a lawsuit in federal court in Arizona seeking to overturn the Fish and Wildlife Service’s refusal to list as endangered or threatened the Cactus-Ferruginous Pygmy Owl – an owl that is less than a foot long and is at grave risk of extinction from development and other impacts in the northern portion of its range in Arizona and northern Mexico. Although the Service concedes that the pygmy-owl faces myriad threats in the northern part of its range, and that this portion – called the Sonoran Desert Ecoregion – is important to the species’ conservation, the Service has refused to protect the owl under the Endangered Species Act based on a new Obama Administration policy that says, in effect, that a species must presently be at risk of extinction everywhere it exists in order for the species to gain any protection under the Act. This policy drastically reduces the number of species eligible for protection under the Act and also means that highly endangered populations in the United States will be allowed to go extinct simply because the species may be more abundant elsewhere, in direct contravention of a central objective of the ESA to safeguard wildlife for the benefit of the nation and its citizens. A copy of the Complaint is here and a press release on the lawsuit is here.