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The news that the cactus ferruginous pygmy owl may again be listed under the Endangered Species Act is bad news for efforts to conserve the owl, as well as for species that are truly endangered. Due to lawsuits brought by the Center for Biological Diversity and Defenders of Wildlife–phony conservation groups that own, rent and lease no land despite having a combined annual budget of almost $60 million and 329 staff–the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has an August 5, 2021 deadline to decide whether to propose to list the owl under the Endangered Species Act.

This is bad news for the owl, because the ESA’s penalty-based approach punishes people for conserving the owl and its habitat. As a result, many people, especially working landowners who own much of the owl’s habitat, are reluctant to help conserve the owl.

The prospect of the owl being re-listed under the ESA, after it was removed from the list in 2006 because its tiny population in southern Arizona did not merit protection, is bad news for species that are truly endangered. The vast majority of the pygmy owl’s habitat is in Mexico, where the species is doing fine, with only a tiny sliver of habitat in southern Arizona. Spending finite federal funds potentially listing the owl under the Endangered Species Act diverts funds from species that are truly endangered in the United States. The real reason these groups want to list the owl is to use it as a land and resource-use control tool.

So keep tuned, this is going to be an issue that’s not going away any time soon.