Who needs critical habitat?

  • Cactus ferruginous pygmy owl.

    ARIZONA FISH AND GAME
 

Note: This article is a sidebar to this issue's feature story, "Sound science goes sour."

At the end of May, the Interior Department announced that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was running out of money. Officials blamed the budget shortfall on the agency’s need to comply with court orders brought on by environmentalists’ lawsuits.

Now, to address its $150 million backlog, the Service plans to approach a host of judges and ask for extensions on critical-habitat designation for 32 species, including the cactus ferruginous pygmy owl, Mexican spotted owl, California red-legged frog, bull trout, and the southwestern arroyo toad.

Added to the Endangered Species Act in 1978, the critical-habitat provision requires Fish and Wildlife to identify habitat that is “essential” for the recovery of a species. But critical habitat has been a “bone of contention” for four administrations, says Hugh Vickery, an Interior Department communications officer. He says environmentalists use the term to mislead people. Critical-habitat court settlements don’t help species, he says; rather, they force “biologists (to) go out, draw a line on a map and designate critical habitat.”

But according to Kieran Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity, the agency’s own studies show that species with critical-habitat designation are recovering twice as fast as species without them.

The Center accuses Interior Secretary Gale Norton of orchestrating the budget crisis, by first low-balling the agency’s budget, then refusing the supplemental money congressional Democrats tried to tack onto the budget. “They’re pleading poverty,” says the Center’s Peter Galvin, “But they haven’t asked (Congress) for sufficient funds to carry out their duties.”

Interior Department spokesman Vickery says that’s “a bunch of nonsense,” and says environmentalists are asking the agency to designate critical habitat “at a time when they don’t have the scientific information to do it.”

High Country News Classifieds
  • WRITING SKILLS TUTOR FOR HIRE!
    Fort Collins, CO college students welcome. Meet on your college campus!
  • CANYONLANDS FIELD INSTITUTE
    Colorado Plateau Natural & Human History Field Seminars. Lodge, river, hiking options. Small groups, guest experts.
  • NATURE EDUCATION DIRECTOR
    Our mission is to inspire a life-long connection to nature and community through creative exploration of the outdoors. We are seeking an educational leader who...
  • DEVELOPMENT AND MARKETING DIRECTOR
    The Development and Marketing Director is a senior position responsible for the execution of all development and marketing strategies to raise funds and increase public...
  • DEVELOPMENT COORDINATOR
    Coordinates all Wyoming Wildlife Federation philanthropic activities. Tasks include identification, recruitment, and retention of donors, organizing fundraising events, and assisting with grant writing.
  • REALTOR NEEDS A REMOTE ASSISTANT
    This is a business assistant position, The working hours are flexible and you can chose to work from anywhere of your choice, the pay is...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Central Oregon LandWatch is seeking an Executive Director to advance our mission and oversee the development of the organization. Job Description: The Executive Director oversees...
  • WESTERN NATIVE SEED
    Specializing in native seeds and seed mixes for western states.
  • MEDIA DIRECTOR
    Love working with the media? Shine a spotlight on passionate, bold activists fighting for wild lands, endangered species, wild rivers and protecting the climate.
  • STAFF ATTORNEY - NEVADA
    The Center for Biological Diversity is seeking an attorney to expand our litigation portfolio in Nevada. Come join our hard-hitting team as we fight for...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    The Montana Wildlife Federation seeks an energetic leader to advance our mission, sustain our operations, and grow our grassroots power. For a full position description,...
  • HISTORIC COMMERCIAL OPPORTUNITY IN DOWNTOWN NOGALES
    Nogales. 3 active lower spaces and upper floor with lots of potential. 520-245-9000 [email protected]
  • CHUCK BURR'S CULTUREQUAKE.COM BLOG
    Change will happen when we see a new way of living. Thinking to save the world.
  • COMING TO TUCSON?
    Popular vacation house, furnished, 2 bed/1 bath, yard, dog-friendly. Lee at [email protected] or 520-791-9246.
  • DIRECTOR, TEXAS WATER PROGRAMS
    The National Wildlife Federation seeks a Director to lead our water-related policy and program work in Texas, with a primary focus on NWF's signature Texas...
  • SPLIT CREEK RANCH
    Spectacular country home on 48 acres with Wallowa River running through it! 541-398-1148 www.RubyPeakRealty.com
  • OJO CALIENTE COMMERCIAL VENTURE
    Outstanding location near the world famous Ojo Caliente Mineral Spring Resort. Classic adobe Mercantile complete w/living quarters, separate 6 unit B&B, metal building and spacious...
  • NEW MEXICO GILA NATIONAL FOREST HORSE RANCH
    43 acres in the Gila National Forest. Horse facility, custom home. Year-round outdoor living. REDUCED to $999,000, 575-536-3109.
  • EVERLAND MOUNTAIN RETREAT
    Everland Mountain Retreat includes 318 mountaintop acres with a 3,200 square foot lodge and two smaller homes. Endless vistas of the Appalachian mountains, open skies,...
  • COPPER CANYON MEXICO CAMPING & BACKPACKING
    Camping, hiking, backpacking, R2R2R, Tarahumara Easter, Mushroom Festival, www.coppercanyontrails.org.