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Federal plan would cut habitat for endangered bighorn sheep

September 2, 2008 |  1:11 pm

Bighorn_sheepThe U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working on the final details of a map that would cut by nearly half the habitat the agency had previously considered to be critical to the survival of the peninsula bighorn sheep. The plan could be approved by the end of September. Leslie Carlson reports:

Scientists and environmental advocates say the trimmed habitat could deal a permanent setback to a species that has shown signs of recovering after 10 years of federal protection. They accuse the Department of the Interior, which governs the Fish and Wildlife Service, of mixing politics with science and caving to mining and tribal interests in the desert. One mining operation in Imperial County already has applied to expand its operation into land once listed as critical to the sheep's recovery, documents show.

The recovery plan . . . has been working," said Mark Jorgensen, supervisor of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, who has worked with peninsular bighorn sheep for 40 years. "Why take out 500,000 acres of it and say that it's not a big deal? And that it's based on science? Why not come out and say that it's just politics?"

Jane Hedron, a spokeswoman for the wildlife service, defended the new boundaries as sufficient to help the species recover.

"Critical habitat is habitat considered essential for the recovery of the endangered species," she said. "It is not intended to include the entire range of a species."

Photo: Leslie Carlson / Los Angeles Times

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