Birds get eviction notice

  When the Bureau of Reclamation floods the endangered southwestern willow flycatchers out of their nesting habitat near Phoenix, Ariz., will the birds simply move to the next best spot? The Bureau says they will. But conservationists fear the move will drive the local population of songbirds to extinction.

The deluge comes next spring as a result of a nine-year, $430 million enlargement of Roosevelt Dam, completed last March. Roosevelt Lake was built to control floods and store water for the growing cities of Phoenix and Scottsdale.

The Bureau of Reclamation has agreed to acquire replacement habitat and fund studies of the bird's population, nesting and dispersal. "We believe the measures ... can both protect the flycatcher and allow for the filling of the expanded reservoir," says Dennis Schroeder, manager of the Bureau's Phoenix office. But just in case, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has issued Reclamation "incidental take" permits, allowing them to harm or kill the birds.

Only five populations of Southwest willow flycatchers still exist in California, Arizona and New Mexico. Robin Silver, of the Southwest Center for Biological Diversity, says this is the second to fall victim to the Bureau's water projects. "Why would you destroy 40 percent of the viable population groups of a species and then pretend it's a win-win situation?" he asks. The Southwest Center is planning to sue the federal government for violating the Endangered Species Act.

" Greg Hanscom