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Cactus Ferruginous Pygmy-owl listed as threatened under ESA

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The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will list the Cactus Ferruginous Pygmy-owl (Glaucidium brasilianum cactorum) as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, with critical habitat to be designated later.  According to the Federal Register notice, the main threats to the owl are habitat loss/fragmentation and climate change/climate conditions. 

The listing will become final on 21 August. 

Learn more in the press release from USFWS, below. 


USFWS Press Release

Service Federally Lists Cactus Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl as Threatened

Jul 19, 2023

Media Contacts: Al Barrus

PHOENIX–Following a 60-day public comment period, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is listing the cactus ferruginous pygmy-owl as a threatened subspecies under the Endangered Species Act, along with a 4(d) rule that tailors protections for the owl. Service biologists will propose designating critical habitat for the species in a separate rule at a later date.  

In response to comments made by stakeholders, partners, and the public, Service biologists made additions to this final rule to further explain new information received between the previous not-warranted finding in 2011 and the 2021 proposed listing, as well as incorporated data and information provided during the public comment period, as appropriate.

The pygmy-owl is a 6-inch-tall raptor currently found in southern Arizona, southern Texas, and Mexico. The owl is imperiled throughout its range by activities that reduce and fragment its habitat. These threats include but are not limited to, invasive species, urbanization, agriculture and forest production, and climate change . It has been extirpated from key areas of its historical range in both Arizona and Texas. Notable declines are also reported in the Mexican portion of the pygmy-owl’s range, especially in Northern Sonora, Mexico.  

“The Endangered Species Act provides a critical safety net for fish, wildlife and plants and has prevented the extinction of hundreds of imperiled species like the pygmy-owl,” said Southwest Regional Director Amy Lueders. “In addition, collaborative conservation efforts with a diversity of cooperators in Arizona, Texas and Mexico have further protected pygmy-owl habitat through habitat acquisition and protection in Arizona and have greatly enhanced our understanding of the species.”   

Pygmy-owl habitat has been protected through conservation planning and habitat acquisition and protection as part of implementing the Pima County Multi-Species Conservation Plan. Participation in the plan is voluntary and provides non-federal landowners and industry the opportunity to implement proactive conservation practices that address specific threats to imperiled species. In turn, the landowner receives assurances that if the species eventually becomes listed under the Endangered Species Act, they can continue to manage their land as outlined in their agreements with no additional requirements. In addition, the Altar Valley Watershed Plan has been developed and will contribute to the enhancement of pygmy-owl habitat in Altar Valley, Arizona. Other collaborative efforts with a diversity of cooperators have enhanced our knowledge of pygmy-owl needs through ongoing cooperative surveys, research, and monitoring in Arizona, Texas, and Mexico.   

The Service developed a species status assessment (SSA) using the best available science and available information from a team of local, state, federal, and Tribal experts, as well as conservation partners, concerning the past, present, and future threats, as well as ongoing conservation efforts. Based on the analysis in the SSA regarding the projected future condition of the species, the cactus ferruginous pygmy-owl is likely to become an endangered species in the foreseeable future primarily due to habitat loss and fragmentation, and climate change. 

The 4(d) rule prohibits the same activities as outlined in the Endangered Species Act for an endangered species but allows certain exceptions. These exceptions include specific types of education and outreach activities already allowed under a Migratory Bird Treaty Act permit, surveying and monitoring conducted in Arizona under a state-issued Scientific Collection License, and habitat restoration and enhancement activities that improve habitat conditions and which are coordinated with and approved by the Service. 

This announcement comes as the ESA turns 50 years old in 2023. Throughout the year, the Department of the Interior is celebrating the ESA’s importance in preventing imperiled species extinction, promoting the recovery of wildlife and conserving the habitats upon which they depend. 

The full listing rule will be available at www.regulations.gov by searching under docket number FWS-R2-ES-2021-0098. This listing rule goes into effect 30 days after publication. The service remains interested in information regarding the status and conservation of, and any potential threat to, the cactus ferruginous pygmy-owl. Please submit information by email to incomingazcorr@fws.gov. 

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