Summary Judgment Sought In Case Challenging FWS’s Refusal To Protect Pygmy-Owl Based On Harmful Endangered Species Act Policy

On behalf of the Center for Biological Diversity and Defenders of Wildlife, we have filed our opening summary judgment motion in a case challenging the Fish and Wildlife Service’s (FWS) refusal to list the pygmy-owl as an endangered or threatened species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).  The pygmy-owl is a tiny owl that has been reduced to 50 or fewer birds in all of the Arizona portion of its range because of rampant urban development, grazing, invasive species, and other threats.  While conceding the owl’s highly imperiled status in the U.S. portion of its range and in adjacent habitat in northern Mexico, the FWS has refused to list the owl – and thus afford it the critically needed protection of the ESA – based on a recent policy change adopted by the Obama Administration, under which species such as the pygmy-owl may receive no protection under the ESA so long as they may be more plentiful in other parts of their range.  Applying that policy, the FWS determined that simply because the pygmy-owl is not in as desperate straits in southern Mexico, it should be allowed to go extinct in Arizona and northern Mexico.  We have challenged that decision, and the underlying policy, as contrary to the overriding conservation purpose of the ESA to safeguard imperiled wildlife in the U.S. even if they be more abundant elsewhere.  Indeed, as our brief points out, under the harmful policy applied to the pygmy-owl, such iconic species on the American landscape as grizzly bears, wolves, eagles, jaguars, and many others would never have received protection under the ESA.  Our case is pending in the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona.  A copy of our summary judgment motion is here.