Black-capped Vireo to be delisted from endangered species roll

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As reported recently by the Texas Farm Bureau, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) is proposing to delist the Black-Capped Vireo from the U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA) due to a recovery.

The songbird species, native to only Texas, Oklahoma and the northernmost regions of Mexico, was listed in 1987 as endangered because of the loss of habitat range due in part to goat and other herd grazing, as well as significant nest parasitism from brown-headed cowbirds. Between 1987-2012, however, the available habitat range increased 17 percent due to a 47 percent decrease in goat population, as well as a decrease in brown-headed cowbird population in the area because of trapping by conservation groups. The vireo’s numbers have increased significantly during this time, citing as many as 14,000 male vireos in Texas in 2014 compared to as low as 350 in 1987.

Due to this significant increase in population, the USFWS has decided to propose that the vireo no longer be classified as “endangered” under the ESA. The USFWS also factored in the vireo’s increased population in northern Mexico in its decision because of the migratory habits of the birds across the region.

Some groups have expressed fear that, once the vireo is delisted, commercial activity in its habitat will increase and leave the songbird back at square one. There is also concern that conservation groups will ease trapping efforts on the brown-headed cowbirds or that the herds will return and the habitat range will once again be negatively impacted.

On the other hand, these birds live in the habitat range of several other species listed on the ESA, so their habitat will effectively be quasi-protected. In addition, the vireo will still be protected under the Migratory Bird Act, therefore prohibiting the “taking” of the birds to any place outside of its habitat range.

Since 1973, 38 different plant and animal species have been delisted. Among those, reports Michael Bean of the Austin American-Statesman, are five species from the Lone Star State. These include the nation’s symbol, the American bald eagle, as well as the brown pelican and the American peregrine falcon, all three of which have made dramatic gains after suffering decades of decline. The American alligator and a Texas wildflower known as Johnston’s frankenia have also recovered and been delisted. The northern aplomado falcon, after an absence of more than half a century, has been restored to the Texas coast. After a brush with extinction, the whooping crane is also making a steady comeback – and drawing lots of tourists to the Texas coast to see it.

The USFWS is accepting comments on this proposal until February 13, 2017. You can submit comments in one of the following ways:

(1) Electronically: Go to the Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. In the Search box, enter FWS-R2-ES-2016-0110, the docket number for this rulemaking. Then, in the Search panel on the left side of the screen, under the Document Type heading, click on the Proposed Rules link to locate this document. You may submit a comment by clicking on “Comment Now!”

(2) By hard copy: Submit by U.S. mail or hand-delivery to:
Public Comments Processing, Attn: FWS – R2-ES-2016-0110
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Headquarters, MS: BPHC
5275 Leesburg Pike
Falls Church, VA 22041-3803