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Federal protections proposed for small owl spotted in the Valley

6 months 5 days 22 hours ago Thursday, December 23 2021 Dec 23, 2021 December 23, 2021 8:25 AM December 23, 2021 in News - Local

An owl that’s been spotted in the Valley is being considered for conservation status by the federal government—and the decision could have a big impact on property owners.

It’s a matter of space. As new homes and developments go up, it leaves less room for the native species.

Cutting down on their space cuts down on their numbers and can lead to them becoming threatened or endangered.

The Cactus Ferruginous Pygmy Owl lives in Mexico and South America. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says they're losing habitat and few of them are left in the United States. They survive in a corner of Arizona, and a small patch of South Texas.

The owl is being considered for threatened status under the Endangered Species Act. If approved, it would be illegal to hurt the owl, and federal actions that jeopardize it would be banned, including federal construction and also projects with federal money.

"Highways would certainly be affected,“ said Alan Glen, a partner with Smith Robertson Law Firm in Austin. “Any kind of road infrastructure, continued development along the border, like border walls and that sort of stuff, could be affected. And then county roads, smaller roads and arterials."

Glen worked on this same issue in Arizona in the 90s when the same owl was under protected status.

"The owl in Arizona, it became a recorded decision,” Glen said. “An environmental group sued to stop the construction of a high school because of the owl. They ultimately lost that case, but it was at tremendous expense to the school district."

Glen says both governments and private landowners would need to seek expert advice when developing their land, and make sure they don't risk breaking the rules.

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