Miami-Dade County

Cape Sable Sparrow may be headed back to court

A rare Cape Sable seaside sparrow sings from a blooming stalk of sawgrass in a marle prairie just east of Shark River Slough in Everglades National Park in 1996. Fewer than 300 of the endangered sparrows survive.
A rare Cape Sable seaside sparrow sings from a blooming stalk of sawgrass in a marle prairie just east of Shark River Slough in Everglades National Park in 1996. Fewer than 300 of the endangered sparrows survive. Miami Herald Staff

The tiny Cape Sable seaside sparrow, a feathered symbol of the Everglades’ failing health, may find itself yet again at the heart of a legal skirmish.

On Thursday, the Center for Biological Diversity announced it plans to sue federal officials, claiming repeated flooding of sparrow habitat in the western Everglades to restore water to the park’s parched southern reaches violates the Endangered Species Act. A population that once numbered 3,000 is now less than 300, the center said.

“As the only population west of Shark River Slough, this population provides the species as a whole with a crucial buffer against extinction should a fire or other catastrophe wipe out other populations,” a statement from the center said.

The center sued in 2009 when the sparrow’s protected habitat was downsized by 70,000 acres to make way for more water. Wildlife managers say restoring the broader Everglades gives the birds the best shot at survival.

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