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Conservationists are suing the federal government to restore nearly 468,000 acres of critical habitat to protect an endangered sheep living in areas like Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.

A lawsuit filed in San Diego on October 7 by the Sierra Club, the Center for Biological Diversity, and other conservation organizations charges that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service violated the Endangered Species Act when, in April, it cut protected habitat designations for the peninsular bighorn sheep by 55 percent — from 844,897 to 376,938 acres. The lawsuit also claims this reduction broke up habitat continuity, disrupting migration and interbreeding across populations.

Once the most numerous of the desert bighorns, the peninsular bighorn sheep population in the U.S. dropped to 276 in 1996 and was listed as endangered in 1998. They dwell in low-elevation slopes in desert areas popular with real estate developers.

“It’s a magnificent animal in its own right and, if it’s in trouble, it’s also an indicator that the entire ecosystem is in trouble,” said Joan Taylor, conservation chairman for the Sierra Club in the Coachella Valley.

In 2001, the government marked off 840,000 mountainous and canyon acres in Riverside, San Diego, and Imperial Counties as critical habitat. In part, this means developers face a higher level of environmental review for those areas. A Fish and Wildlife spokeswoman did not return calls seeking comment, but the Associated Press stated in a report that the recent reduction was based on better conservation planning and science about the sheeps’ habits.

Currently, an estimated 800 sheep reside in the area from the San Jacinto Mountains to the border, partly helped by the 2001 designation, said Ileene Anderson, biologist with the Center for Biological Diversity. “They have rebounded in numbers…which shows protecting their habitat does help in bringing the species back from extinction.”

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Conservationists are suing the federal government to restore nearly 468,000 acres of critical habitat to protect an endangered sheep living in areas like Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.

A lawsuit filed in San Diego on October 7 by the Sierra Club, the Center for Biological Diversity, and other conservation organizations charges that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service violated the Endangered Species Act when, in April, it cut protected habitat designations for the peninsular bighorn sheep by 55 percent — from 844,897 to 376,938 acres. The lawsuit also claims this reduction broke up habitat continuity, disrupting migration and interbreeding across populations.

Once the most numerous of the desert bighorns, the peninsular bighorn sheep population in the U.S. dropped to 276 in 1996 and was listed as endangered in 1998. They dwell in low-elevation slopes in desert areas popular with real estate developers.

“It’s a magnificent animal in its own right and, if it’s in trouble, it’s also an indicator that the entire ecosystem is in trouble,” said Joan Taylor, conservation chairman for the Sierra Club in the Coachella Valley.

In 2001, the government marked off 840,000 mountainous and canyon acres in Riverside, San Diego, and Imperial Counties as critical habitat. In part, this means developers face a higher level of environmental review for those areas. A Fish and Wildlife spokeswoman did not return calls seeking comment, but the Associated Press stated in a report that the recent reduction was based on better conservation planning and science about the sheeps’ habits.

Currently, an estimated 800 sheep reside in the area from the San Jacinto Mountains to the border, partly helped by the 2001 designation, said Ileene Anderson, biologist with the Center for Biological Diversity. “They have rebounded in numbers…which shows protecting their habitat does help in bringing the species back from extinction.”

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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