We reported last March that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service would decide this month whether to list the western population of the Yellow-billed Cuckoo as Threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Yesterday, October 2, the agency did just that: The western population is now listed as Threatened.
The listing will cover parts of 12 states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Utah, Wyoming, Montana, Oregon, and Washington.
In addition, in August, the agency proposed designating 546,335 acres of critical habitat for the bird in 80 separate units in Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Utah, and Wyoming. Comments on the critical-habitat proposal are due by October 14.
Once abundant in the western United States, cuckoo populations have declined for several decades, primarily due to the severe loss, degradation, and fragmentation of riparian habitat as a result of conversion to agriculture, dam construction, river-flow management, and riverbank protection. Overgrazing and invasive exotic plants have also contributed to declines.
“While the major threat to Yellow-billed Cuckoos has been loss of riverside habitat, we do not anticipate any significant new water-related requirements as a result of this listing decision,” said Ren Lohoefener, director of the Service’s Pacific Southwest Region. “The water resource requirements for riparian habitat are not unique to cuckoos, and in many cases are already being implemented for other species. Riparian restoration efforts go hand-in-hand with good land management, especially management that promotes good livestock grazing practices.”
“The final rule recognizes that current environmental regulations are inadequate to eliminate the threats faced by the western Yellow-billed Cuckoo,” said Steve Holmer, senior policy advisor with American Bird Conservancy. “Federal agencies must take responsibility for the water diversion and grazing policies that are harming the species. Today’s listing tells federal managers to chart a new direction and develop a plan to restore riparian areas and regrow lost Yellow-billed Cuckoo habitat.”