Enviros Fight Feds to Save Desert Bald Eagles

On October 8, 2010, in news, by admin


PHOENIX (CN) – Environmentalists are fighting the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s decision to remove protections for Sonoran desert bald eagles. The Center for Biological Diversity and the Maricopa Audubon Society say the Sonoran eagles are isolated “reproductively, biologically, behaviorally and geographically from all other bald eagles,” with only about 52 breeding pairs in existence.
The groups want Endangered Species Act protections reinstated for the desert raptors. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service lifted the protections in February.
Fish and Wildlife declared on Aug. 30, 2006 that desert eagles were not “significant” and did not qualify as endangered, despite “well-documented scientific information demonstrating the reproductive isolation and unique characteristics of the desert eagle,” according to the federal complaint.
On March 6, 2008, a federal judge found the Fish and Wildlife Service’s finding “arbitrary and capricious” and enjoined the delisting until the agency made a “lawful determination” on the desert eagle’s status.
Fish and Wildlife Service a 12-month finding on Feb. 25, “reaching the same conclusion … that desert eagles are not ‘significant’ to the overall bald eagle population and thus do not qualify … for protection under the ESA,” the complaint states.
On Sept. 30, the Federal Court accepted the finding.
But the environmentalists say that the Sonoran desert population of desert eagles “has failed to achieve the recovery success that other bald eagle populations have achieved.” The eagles, known as the “Treasure of the Southwest,” are isolated “reproductively, biologically, behaviorally and geographically from all other bald eagles,” with only about 52 breeding pairs in existence.
The productivity of the breeding pairs has declined, and data from the Arizona Game and Fish Department show that the eagles “will likely go extinct in approximately 75 years,” the groups say.
According to the environmentalists, when bald eagle populations in Alaska and Canada were considered stable, bald eagle populations in the contiguous 48 states were on the verge of extinction. The eagles in Lower 48 were allowed to receive Endangered Species Act protections “despite the fact that the species as a whole (due to the Canadian and Alaskan populations) was not threatened with extinction. In other words, Congress recognized that it was not enough to have bald eagles in Alaska; the populations in the contiguous 48 states mattered as well,” the complaint states.
The biggest threats to the eagle are habitat destruction from cattle grazing, mining and climate change, and population growth around the eagle’s habitat in Maricopa County, the environmentalists say. The Southwest has lost 90 percent of its “historical riparian communities, and the remaining riparian areas are declining.”
The environmentalists say the Fish and Wildlife Service “ignored or discounted information, including findings from its own regional biologists, that desert eagles persist in an ecological setting that is unique for the taxon; that loss of the desert eagle population would result in a significant gap in the range of the species; that desert eagles differ markedly from other populations of the species in their genetic characteristics; and that desert eagles are significant due to their morphological and behavioral characteristics as well as their reproductive isolation.”
They claim that the agency ignored that the eagles “use whatever high nests are available near riparian areas they inhabit in the Sonoran desert area; these sites often happen to be cliffs.”
Without the listing, the eagles are still protected under state and federal law, but their nesting areas lose the extra safeguards.
The groups want Fish and Wildlife’s finding that the eagles are not “significant” set aside, and want the agency enjoined from removing Endangered Species Protection for the eagles. They are represented by Howard Shanker of Tempe..


Filed Under: EnvironmentLaw

Environmental groups filed a new lawsuit to keep the desert-nesting bald eagles in Arizona on the endangered species list.

Judge Mary Murguia had put the move on hold in a lawsuit that included theSalt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, the San Carlos Apache Tribe, the Yavapai-Apache Nation and the Tonto Apache Tribe. The tribes said theU.S. Fish and Wildlife Service failed to consult them before removing the sacred bird from the list.

Murguia, however, lifted her injunction last week. So the Center for Biological Diversity and the Maricopa Audubon Society filed a new lawsuit on Tuesday.

The Obama administration supports the removal of the eagle from the list..


Bald eagles ruled naked

On October 2, 2010, in news, by admin

by Hugh Holub on Oct. 02, 2010, under environment water and energyland use,politics

A federal judge ruled that Arizona’s population of bald eagles was ruled not be to endangered. Thus they are naked from protection by the US Fish & Wildlife Service(USF&WS).

Not surprisingly the Tucson based Center for Biological Diversity is threatening to sue the feds over the decision.

Here is a little context to work with:

There are all kinds of critters found in Arizona which are also found in other parts of the United States…and even Mexico in some specific cases.

At issue with the bald eagle fight was whether or not the population of bald eagles found in Arizona was sufficiently genetically distinct to be separately eligible for federal protection under the Endangered Species Act.

The federal court said the evidence did not support any genetic distinction. In other words, a bald eagle in Alaska or Montana is the same species.

The Center for Biological Diversity and other similar groups like the Western Watersheds Project and  Wild Earth Gaurdians are famous for having a pretty clear agenda of trying to block any new uses of public lands (such as the Rosemont mine) , and also trying to run existing land users (such as ranchers) off public lands. CBD recently went after an  El Paso Natural Gas pipeline project. For example of the scope of activity see CBD’s press page.

Their main tools are the Endangered Species Act and truckloads of legal actions against federal agencies to try and force these agencies into submission to CBD’s and WWP’s agenda.

A common theme, speciallyof CBD’s claims, are the allegedly endangered species can only be protected by preserving Arizona’s riparian habitats, and that preseveration of habitat requires kicking ranchers off the range as well and preventing every other land and water use that may be  in conflict with the preservation of the natural habitat.

Far be it for anyone to point out that cows and eagles have cohabited these areas for several hundred years.

One of the devices used in this fight is to claim that a critter found in Arizona is a separate subspecies and thus entitled to federal protection. Thus Arizona’s eagles  were claimed to be different than Montana’s eagles.

The same argument has been made over the pygmy owl…these little owls are common in Mexico…but it was alleged that the Arizona population is different. Maybe they don’t speak Spanish?

The courts also ruled the pygmy owl in Arizona did not warrant protection under the Endangered Species Act.

There are a lot of critters found all over the place besides Arizona…and in many cases the Arizona portion of their habitat is on the edge of their main range.  Whether or not there is a population of pygmy owls or bald eagles in Arizona does not endanger the entire species.

But as a tool to challenge various land uses in Arizona like ranching, it makes great press to claim Arizona’s eagles or pygmy owls are threatened with extinction.

The eagle story from the Arizona Republic:.