Pygmy rabbits may get reprieve

For those of you cheering the linkurl:pygmy rabbit, ;http://www.the-scientist.com/article/display/53232/ you can let up a restrained cheer today - a small one, perhaps, in keeping with the size of the animals. The US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), bowing to a linkurl:September court order, ;http://www.the-scientist.com/blog/display/53716/ is reconsidering whether more members of the tiny species should be covered under the Endangered Species Act. The agency had previously denied coverage of

By | January 8, 2008

For those of you cheering the linkurl:pygmy rabbit, ;http://www.the-scientist.com/article/display/53232/ you can let up a restrained cheer today - a small one, perhaps, in keeping with the size of the animals. The US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), bowing to a linkurl:September court order, ;http://www.the-scientist.com/blog/display/53716/ is reconsidering whether more members of the tiny species should be covered under the Endangered Species Act. The agency had previously denied coverage of the species, which triggered a 2003 petition by several groups. As a USFWS release today noted, US District Judge Edward Lodge said the agency ''acted in a manner that was arbitrary and capricious and contrary to the applicable law,'' and ordered the new finding, known as a 90-day finding, by December 26, 2007. In today's release, the USFWS noted that ''the pygmy rabbit may warrant federal protection as a threatened or endangered species.'' The announcement relates to pygmy rabbits (Brachylagus idahoensis) outside of the Columbia River basin; the rabbits within that basin are already covered. ''The finding does not mean that the Service has decided it is appropriate to list the pygmy rabbit,'' Bob Williams, Field Supervisor for the Nevada Fish and Wildlife Office, said in the statement. ''The 90-day finding is the first step in a process that triggers a more thorough review of all the biological information available. We are encouraging the public to submit any relevant information about the pygmy rabbit and its habitat to us for consideration in the comprehensive review.'' (You can make such comments at http://www.regulations.gov.) UPDATE (10:30 P.M. EST): Jon Marvel, executive director of the linkurl:Western Wetlands Project, ;http://www.westernwatersheds.org/news_media/newsmedia_2007/wwp130_newsmedia.shtml which was one of the groups that petitioned the USFWS in 2003, emailed me this statement: ''Western Watersheds Project is surprised and pleased that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has agreed that pygmy rabbits warrant a full review of their status. This is especially important as sage brush habitat for pygmy rabbits continues to decline because of fires, livestock grazing, off-road vehicles and oil and gas development across their range.''

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