Environmentalists have sued the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to re-designate nearly 1 million acres of Southern California as protected habitat for an endangered sheep.
The Sierra Club and other groups filed the federal lawsuit Wednesday in San Diego to protect the Peninsular bighorn sheep. About 800 survive in San Diego, Riverside and Imperial counties, where developers are encroaching on their traditional grounds.
In 2001, the government designated nearly 845,000 acres as critical habitat but slashed that in half this April after a lawsuit by homebuilders and an Indian tribe.
While the federal agency can't comment on the lawsuit, the reduction was based on better conservation planning and science about the sheep's habits, said U.S. Fish and Wildlife service spokeswoman Jane Hendron.
The bighorn sheep population earned an endangered designation from the federal government in 1998.