Phoenix, AZ – Critical habitat doesn't affect activities of private landowners.
But it does require federal agencies to consult with Fish and
Wildlife Service to ensure anything they do, including issuing
permits for activities on federal lands, do not destroy the
habitat. The Fish and Wildlife Service originally tried to have
just 4.6 million acres given that designation. But federal courts
rejected that as not complying with the Endangered Species Act.
That resulted in the 8.6 million acre designation in 2004. The
Arizona Cattle Growers Association challenged that, saying there
was no evidence that the owls actually occupied that much area.
But the appellate court said while they didn't necessarily live
there, Fish and Wildlife was correct in determining all that was
part of their range. Cattle Growers spokesman Doc Lane said that
sets a bad precedent.
(That accumulates until you finally have everything covered by
critical habitat for some species. And the longer that goes on,
the less economic activity there is in this state, of any kind,
where there's a federal nexus.)
But the appellate judges said the Endangered Species Act requires
agencies to give the benefit of any doubt to protecting the
species. For Arizona Public Radio this is Howard Fischer.