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Feds Move to Protect Endangered Bird Habitat In Arizona and Around the West

PHOTO: Over 500,000 acres of public land in several western states could receive protections from the federal government for the yellow-billed cuckoo, which is also being considered for endangered species designation. Photo credit: Lower Colorado River Multi-Species Conservation Program.
PHOTO: Over 500,000 acres of public land in several western states could receive protections from the federal government for the yellow-billed cuckoo, which is also being considered for endangered species designation. Photo credit: Lower Colorado River Multi-Species Conservation Program.
August 19, 2014

TUCSON, Ariz. - The federal government is moving to protect hundreds of thousands of acres of public land in Arizona and several other western states that the yellow-billed cuckoo bird calls home.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing to designate over 500,000 acres as critical habitat for the cuckoo, which is also being considered for endangered species designation. Michael Robinson, conservation advocate with the Center for Biological Diversity, says the protections would give the birds a better chance for survival.

"The critical habitat under the Endangered Species Act provides protections from federal actions that might degrade the critical habitat, or destroy it, so that it's not usable by whatever endangered or threatened animal it's been designated for," says Robinson.

The yellow-billed cuckoo is a songbird that lives along rivers and streams throughout the west in Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Utah and Wyoming.

Robinson says the bird once thrived along nearly every body of water in the west, but its population has been impacted by dams, livestock grazing, water withdrawals, and river channelization. He adds federal protections will also help safeguard water sources used by humans for drinking water and recreation.

"What's good for the yellow-billed cuckoo is also good for us," he says. "Clean water, streams that don't go dry because of mismanagement of the watershed. We think people as well as the yellow-billed cuckoos are going to see some benefits on the rivers in Arizona."

Robinson says the critical habitat designation would affect the Colorado, Gila, Verde and San Pedro rivers in Arizona.

Troy Wilde, Public News Service - AZ