Endangered Species Delisting Proposed for Pygmy Owl
A full two years after an appeals court agreed with NAHB that there was no scientific basis for the government designating Arizona’s pygmy-owls as an endangered species, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service last week announced a proposed rule to remove the owl from its list of endangered species.
“This is unprecedented. In the 32-year history of the Endangered Species Act (ESA), a court ruling that a species population is insignificant has never prompted a delisting proposal from the government,” said NAHB President Dave Wilson.
“The government is heading down the right path with its delisting proposal,” Wilson said. “It should be devoting its scarce resources on wildlife that qualifies for protection under the ESA and that has a meaningful chance of recovery.”
NAHB led a coalition of plaintiffs in a suit challenging the validity of the listing and the designation in 2001 of critical habitat for the bird, which can be found in abundant numbers to the south in Mexico.
NAHB questioned whether the population in Arizona was discrete and significant to the survival of the species, two legal requirements for protection under the Endangered Species Act. The nation’s home builders also contended that an initial designation of 1.2 million acres as critical habitat was excessive and would damage the home building industry and the local economy.
The service itself estimated that the designation would add $7,000-$12,000 to the price of a home, which NAHB calculated could take a $500 million toll on local economic activity over 10 years.
The decisive factor behind the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling and service’s decision to delist was the finding that the listing did not prove the significance of Arizona’s distinct population of owls for the survival of the entire subspecies.
Following the government’s announcement, the public now has a 60-day opportunity to comment on the proposal to remove the Arizona owl population from the Endangered Species List.
NAHB will be submitting comments, but continuing litigation over the issue is expected.
For more information, e-mail Duane Desiderio at NAHB, or call him at 800-368-5242 x8146.