Yellow-billed cuckoo gains habitat protections in New Mexico

A 15-mile stretch of the Rio Grande in New Mexico was excluded from habitat protections for the western yellow-billed cuckoo to the chagrin of environmentalists.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) announced April 21 it had designated 300,000 acres in New Mexico, Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Texas and Utah as protected habitat for the imperiled bird that dwells along riverbeds throughout the West.

The move marked a decline in the designated habitat for the cuckoo in a rule issued in 2014 that set aside about half a million acres but was revised last year.

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The alteration meant more than 8,000 acres of habitat in the Elephant Butte Reservoir along the Rio Grande in southern New Mexico was excluded at the request of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation based on needed downstream water deliveries to users along the river.