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N.M.: Lawsuit over habitat designation

N.M.: Lawsuit over habitat designation

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) – A lawsuit filed Wednesday alleges that a federal agency overstepped and acted illegally in designating more than 500 miles of riverbed as critical habitat for two fish species.

The federal lawsuit said the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service did not adhere to requirements of the Endangered Species Act in a March ruling that designated critical habitat for the spikedace and loach minnow.

The Pacific Legal Foundation filed the action on behalf of the New Mexico Cattle Growers’ Association and the Coalition of Arizona/New Mexico Counties for Stable Economic Growth.

It said that because of the restrictions stemming from the critical habitat designation, landowners face flood risks.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife officials declined to provide immediate comment on the lawsuit.

‘Along hundreds of miles of streams and rivers, the federal government has essentially prohibited landowners from making improvements on their own private property in the name of protecting two fish species,’ said foundation attorney Damien Schiff.

Schiff said Fish and Wildlife failed to clearly identify physical and biological features in the designated areas essential for conserving the species and ‘ignored their legal duty to consider the economic impact of the designation.’

Schiff added that the regulations ‘pose flood dangers for ranchers and other rural landowners who can’t shore up riverbanks or dredge streams and rivers to stop the buildup of silt.’

Apache, Gila, Graham and Greenlee counties in Arizona and Catron and Hidalgo counties in New Mexico are coalition members.

Copyright 2007 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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