Judge upholds ESA protections for a Southwestern bird

By Michael Doyle | 02/29/2024 04:24 PM EST

Ranchers in New Mexico had sought to overturn the endangered species listing of the southwestern willow flycatcher.

Southwestern willow flycatcher sitting on a branch.

The endangered southwestern willow flycatcher can be found in the Southwest. Natural Resources Conservation Service Colorado/USDA/National Park Service

A federal judge upheld Endangered Species Act protections for the southwestern willow flycatcher, a much-debated and repeatedly litigated inhabitant of New Mexico rangeland.

Rejecting a challenge brought by the state’s ranchers and their conservative legal advocates, District Judge Ana Reyes on Wednesday ruled that the Fish and Wildlife Service handled the bird’s status reasonably.

“Courts are ill-equipped to make scientific determinations or choose between competing scientific studies,” Reyes wrote. “That is why deference to agency reasoning is strongest in cases such as this.”
Reyes wrote.


Reyes, a Biden administration appointee to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, added that “this is not a case where the Service disregarded available scientific evidence that is in some way better than the evidence it relied upon.”