(CN) – The government’s revised habitat plan for the Cape Sable seaside sparrow could kill off the bird, environmentalists claim in District of Columbia Federal Court. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service admitted that a 1977 habitat plan wouldn’t save the sparrow, which lives in Southern Florida, but its 2007 plan provides even less protection, the Center for Biological Diversity and the Florida Biodiversity Project say.
The Fish and Wildlife Service acknowledged that six populations of the “critically imperiled” bird, which declined by 50 percent between 1992 and 2006, face a “significant risk of imminent extinction,” according to the complaint.
The species needs a specific habitat, known as marl prairie, which includes dense grasses and open spaces. Flood control programs have dried out or flooded much of this habitat, largely in Everglades National Park and Big Cypress National Preserve, leaving only a few chunks.
The plaintiffs, which include Florida Biodiversity Project board members Brian and Rosalyn Scherf, say one of these chunks lies west of the Shark River Slough. This largest remaining contiguous marl prairie area was cut out of the 2007 habitat designation, which slashed a 2006 habitat revision from about 150,000 acres to 84,000 acres. This is even less than the 1977 habitat of 190,000 acres.
The final critical habitat designation is “inept” and “ignores peer-reviewed science,” the environmentalists say. The Department of Interior cut out important areas because they might impede the Everglades Restoration Plan, then paradoxically claimed the plan would help the sparrow, according to the complaint.
The plaintiffs, represented by Howard Crystal with Meyer Glitzenstein & Crystal, want the old habitat ruling reinstated and the new one set aside until the government follows the Endangered Species Act and the Administrative Procedure Act.