- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 8, 2014

KETCHUM, Idaho (AP) - Part of 1,100 acres federal officials have proposed as critical habitat for the Western yellow-billed cuckoo is already protected by easements, a central Idaho official says.

Blaine County Planning Director Tom Bergin at a county commissioners meeting Tuesday said the area is protected under conservation easements on the Wood River and Heart Rock ranches.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Oct. 2 listed the species as threatened due its decline in the western U.S., meaning it’s now protected under the Endangered Species Act.

The Idaho Mountain Express reports (https://bit.ly/1sgsuF7) that the agency is seeking information on potential economic effects.

It says a 7-mile stretch along the Big Wood River downstream of Bellevue is consistently occupied by cuckoos during the breeding season.

Gary Wright of the Bureau of Land Management said the designation could affect livestock grazing and guided fly fishing trips on the portion of land managed by the BLM.

“We would need to see what impacts they impose,” he said.

Central Idaho is the northern limit of the species’ breeding range, the Fish and Wildlife Service said. The cuckoo is also found in parts of the Snake and Henry’s Fork rivers.

The insect-eating bird favors riparian woodlands, and the Western population winters in South America.

Federal officials say its decline over the last several decades follows the loss of habitat due to riparian areas converted for agriculture, dam construction and river management decisions.

Officials also say overgrazing and invasive plants have contributed to the bird’s decline.

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Information from: Idaho Mountain Express, https://www.mtexpress.com

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