Endangered Bat, Cacti Subjects of New Federal Lawsuit

Agricultural groups in New Mexico and Texas want two cacti and a rare bat thrown off the federal endangered species list, according to a new lawsuit that says habitat requirements for each species add extra costs for farmers, ranchers and private landowners.

In court papers filed last week in U.S. District Court in Albuquerque, New Mexico Cattle Growers' Association and the Texas Farm Bureau said they are seeking to have a total of five species reclassified under the Endangered Species Act.

The species include the lesser long-nosed bat and the black-capped vireo, a bird that roams Texas and Oklahoma.

The three-inch bat, which lives in New Mexico's Bootheel and southern Arizona, was listed as endangered in 1988. Federal habitat rules require caves and mines for roost sites and access to healthy stands of saguaro cactus and certain agaves for foraging.

The black-capped vireo was listed in 1987. Males have a black head, white lores and eye-ring, making it popular among bird watchers.

In addition, the groups suing also want the Kuenzler hedgehog cactus, the Tobusch fishhook cactus and the gypsum wild-buckwheat reclassified.

Attorney Tony Francois with the Sacramento, California-based Pacific Legal Foundation filed the lawsuit on behalf of the groups and said the U.S. Department of Interior and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services have failed to act on past requests to relist the species.

Fish and Wildlife Services previously recommended that the five species be taken off the federal endangered species list, but the agency hasn't followed through, Francois said.

"Our petition was filed to seek them to do what their recommendations said they would do," Francois said.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service spokeswoman Lesli Gray says officials are evaluating the lawsuit.

The New Mexico Farm and Livestock Bureau and the New Mexico Federal Lands Council also are named as plaintiffs.

Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity said the center supports the Fish and Wildlife Services making timely decisions regarding petitions.

"However, we are concerned about the lesser long-nosed bat and the black-capped vireo," Robinson said.

Robinson said more information was needed on their conditions.

The Pacific Legal Foundation also is fighting efforts to set aside of critical habitat for the endangered jaguar in New Mexico.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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