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Ecological advocacy group plans to sue U.S. wildlife agency over endangered snake habitat in Southwest

Narrow-headed garter snake
Pierson Hill
Narrow-headed garter snake

An ecological advocacy group plans to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over critical habitat for two endangered aquatic snakes in Arizona and New Mexico.

The nonprofit Center for Biological Diversity filed a formal notice Thursday claiming the federal wildlife agency reduced habitat by more than 90% of what it originally proposed for the narrow-headed garter snake and the northern Mexican garter snake.

Both species were listed as threatened in 2014. Their numbers have dropped significantly along Southwestern streams due to factors including livestock grazing and mining operations, climate change and human encroachment.

The rare snakes have federal protection under the Endangered Species Act along waterways in Arizona and New Mexico, including the Gila, Verde and Blue Rivers.