More than a half-million acres of land across nine Western states is being proposed for designation as critical habitat for the yellow-billed cuckoo.
According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 546,335 acres of critical habitat is up for listing in 80 separate units in Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Utah and Wyoming. The bird is a neotropical migrant that winters in South America and nests along rivers and streams in western North America.
“The designation of critical habitat is an important step in recovering the western yellow-billed cuckoo,” said Jennifer Norris, field supervisor for the service’s Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office. “Critical habitat identifies areas with essential nesting and fledgling sites where conservation actions are needed to protect and recover this imperiled songbird.”
In the proposal, approximately 193,347 acres would be excluded from the critical habitat designation because of existing conservation plans for those areas that protect the western yellow-billed cuckoo and its habitat. All proposed critical habitat designations on tribal lands are being considered for exclusion.
Critical habitat is a term in the Endangered Species Act that identifies geographic areas containing features essential for the conservation of a threatened or endangered species, and which may require special management considerations or protection. Designation of critical habitat does not affect land ownership or establish a refuge or preserve, and has no impact on private landowners taking actions on their land that do not require federal funding or permits.
On Oct. 3, 2013, the service proposed to list the western DPS of the yellow-billed cuckoo as a threatened species under the ESA in the western United States, Canada and Mexico. The listing proposal cites threats from loss of riparian habitat and habitat fragmentation as a result of conversion of land to agriculture, dams and river flow management, bank protection, overgrazing and competition from exotic plants as key factors in the decline of the western yellow-billed cuckoo.
The Service is seeking information concerning the western yellow-billed cuckoo’s biology and habitat, threats to the species and current efforts to protect the bird. The Service also seeks information on the incremental economic effects of the proposed critical habitat designation. To access the proposed rules and a specific outline of information requested by the Service, go to the webpage at www.fws.gov/sacramento/outreach/Public-Advisories/WesternYellow-BilledCuckoo/outreach_PA_Western-Yellow-Billed-Cuckoo.htm.
Comments on the proposed critical habitat rule will be accepted through Oct. 14. Comments may be submitted online at the Federal eRulemaking Portal at www.regulations.gov. The docket number for the proposed rule is FWS–R8–ES–2013-0011. Comments can also be sent by U.S. Mail: Public Comments Processing, Attn FWS–ES–R8–2013–0011; Division of Policy and Directives Management; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; U.S. Fish & Wildlife Headquarters, MS: BPHC, 5275 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, VA 22041-3803.