Feds move to protect bird habitat in Nevada

CARSON CITY — The federal government is moving to protect hundreds of thousands of acres of land in Nevada and several other western states where the yellow-billed cuckoos spend time.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing to designate more than 500,000 acres as critical habitat for the cuckoo, which also is being considered for endangered-species designation.

Michael Robinson, conservation advocate at the Center for Biological Diversity, said the protections would give the birds a better chance of survival.

“The critical habitat under the Endangered Species Act provides protections from federal actions that might degrade the critical habitat or destroy it so that it’s not usable by whatever endangered or threatened animal it’s been designated for,” he said.

The yellow-billed cuckoo is a songbird that lives along rivers and streams in Nevada, Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, New Mexico, Texas, Utah and Wyoming. The agency will take public comment on the proposal for 60 days.

Robinson said the bird once thrived along nearly every body of water in the West, but its population has been impacted by dams, livestock grazing, water withdrawals and channeling rivers. He said federal protections also would help safeguard human water sources for drinking and recreation.

“For example, on the Virgin River, the yellow-billed cuckoo is really going to get a boost,” he said, “while people are going to have a long-term better quality water due to this proposed critical-habitat designation.”

Robinson said the critical-habitat designation would primarily affect the Carson, Muddy and Virgin rivers in Nevada.

The FWS report is online at amazonaws.com.


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