The latest attempt by some Southern California developers to have the Coastal California Gnatcatcher removed from protections under the Endangered Species Act is pretty outrageous – they claim the bird doesn’t even exist!
The delisting petition sponsored by these developers relies on a single recent study claiming that the Coastal California Gnatcatcher is not a genetically unique subspecies. But most avian experts say that the study isn’t nearly enough to overturn than a hundred years’ worth of research to the contrary. Moreover, they point out that the new study cherry picks genetic data and downplays significant visible differences and this study has yet to be independently verified.
The fact that the Coastal California Gnatcatcher is a distinct subspecies worthy of protection was established in 1993 at the time of the original listing, and confirmed by an expert panel convened by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service in 2004 – and there’s nothing in this latest petition that casts doubt on that determination.
Now is not the time to abandon this delicate species. It continues to lose habitat to development, repetitive fires, and the spread of inhospitable non-native plants. Not only is the California Gnatcatcher a magnificent bird worthy of protection, it is also inextricably linked to the rich coastal sage scrub of southern California, an enduring remnant of our wild coast that is now the most endangered habitat type in North America.
Help defend the Coastal California Gnatcatcher today.
Executive Director, Audubon California
(photo by Marci Koski/USFWS)