Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Conservation plan in works to avoid tougher wildlife regulations

San Luis Valley officials are working to put the finishing touches on a conservation plan for a pair of birds that they hope will spare farmers and ranchers from tougher regulation under the Endangered Species Act. The plan, if accepted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, would preserve a core level of habitat for the southwestern willow flycatcher and the yellow-billed cuckoo, he said. The flycatcher was listed as endangered in 1995, while the cuckoo is a candidate for listing, according to the agency. It also would allow for the continuation of traditional agricultural practices such as grazing, fence-building and ditch-clearing. Local communities would be able to maintain or build levees and remove vegetation from floodways. But the plan would not cover subdivision or energy development or any projects that receive federal funding. The planning process in the valley received a prod last summer when federal wildlife officials announced they would consider adding 99 miles along the Rio Grande and 44 miles on the Conejos River as critical habitat for the flycatcher...more

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