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U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to Review Threatened Listing of Yellow-Billed Cuckoo

by | Jul 9, 2018 | Delisting | 0 comments

GEORGETOWN, TX – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) has announced a positive 90-day finding on a petition to remove the western distinct population segment (DPS) of the yellow-billed cuckoo (YBCU; Coccyzus americanus), from the federal list of threatened species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).  The listing of the western DPS of the YBCU impacts 13 states.

American Stewards of Liberty (ASL) Executive Director Margaret Byfield said, “While it took some time for the Service to make this finding, we are certainly pleased with the result. We work tirelessly to ensure species that should not be considered endangered or threatened do not prevent landowners in this country from having full access to their land, and we hope these positive efforts continue to be effective.”

Because erroneous listings of species under the ESA can deprive landowners of the full use of their land and cause significant economic harm, Texas-based ASL—a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization—previously launched a broad effort to delist the numerous species that were either listed in error or have recovered in their natural habitat since listing. These species take up scarce economic resources and impose unnecessary burdens on private landowners and local governments.

On May 4, 2017, the Service received a petition from a diverse group of industry associations, private landowners, and local conservation districts requesting the delisting of the western DPS of the YBCU, which included ASL, Arizona Cattlemen’s Association (ACA), Arizona Mining Association (AMA), National Cattleman’s Beef Association (NCBA), and Public Lands Council (PLC).  Additionally, these organizations were joined by both the Winkelman and Hereford Natural Resource Conservation Districts in Arizona and Arizona rancher, Mr. Jim Chilton.

The petitioners requested the species’ removal from the ESA’s list of endangered and threatened species based on two rationales: (1) error in the Service’s consideration of the YBCU’s eastern and western populations as distinct and (2) new information indicating the YBCU’s use of additional habitat not previously thought suitable for the species.

The Service has now concluded that the delisting petition presented substantial scientific and commercial information that the YBCU uses additional habitats, which indicates that the species’ delisting may be warranted.  Following this preliminary positive finding, the Service will now conduct a species status review to thoroughly analyze the status of the species and seek additional information from the public, which Petitioners believe will lead the Service recognize the error in the species’ current status as a listed species.

Of the 90-day finding, AMA stated, “The Arizona mining community places a top priority on the preservation of indigenous wildlife inhabiting the lands on which we operate.  The sustainability of these species is paramount to companies mining in Arizona.  We commend the USFWS for objectively and substantively evaluating this petition on the western distinct population segment of yellow-billed cuckoo and look forward to the issuance of the 12-month finding.”

Ethan L. Lane, Executive Director for the Public Lands Council, continued, “A functioning Endangered Species Act must include delisting when a species no longer warrants protection.  We are pleased to see USFWS recognize this fact by their finding and hope it’s a harbinger of more timely science-based decisions in the future.”

Arizona rancher Bill Dunn added, “This finding for the yellow-billed cuckoo is great news. The erroneous listing negatively impacts property owners across the country and needs to be dealt with as soon as possible. Hopefully the Service will conduct an honest assessment of the science and realize they were in error in their original listing decision.”

Jim Chilton concluded, “My biologist said the Yellow-billed Cuckoo listing was a scientific blunder while my lawyer said it was simply political science.”

Through current data and robust science, ASL will continue to actively make the case to delist wildlife and plant species that do not qualify for ESA protection. ASL’s efforts apply to delisting flora and fauna anywhere in the United States where a species was listed in error or where there is no longer a reasonable justification for a species to be listed as endangered or threatened.

About the Endangered Species Act (and information on Delisting)

Delisting a species under the ESA may occur as a result of the species’ recovery, the species’ extinction, or if the original data underlying the listing was in error. Since 1973, when the ESA became law, more than 1,500 domestic species have been listed, but only 85 species have been delisted (74 domestic and 13 foreign species). Of these, 20 were delisted because the original data was found to be in error.

About American Stewards of Liberty

ASL is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to protecting private property that works closely with local governments and landowners across America, including: County Commissions, Conservation Districts, business owners, family farmers, ranchers, and homeowners who simply want to exercise the right to productively use their land. For more information, visit:

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