Knoxville (AP) -- The bright blue songbird known as the Cerulean Warbler will not receive protected status as a threatened species.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service published that decision Wednesday in the federal register.
The agency acknowledges the bird's population has dropped as much as 70% since the 1960s because of lost forest habitat and continues to decline by about 3% a year.
But it says there are about a half million of the birds left and they aren't likely to become endangered "within the foreseeable future."
Environmental groups including the Audubon Society and the Southern Environmental Law Center sought Threatened Species Protection for the bird. After waiting six years for the agency's decision, they now are considering an appeal.
The Cerulean Warbler spends its summers in the Eastern United States and winters in South America. But one of its core breeding areas is on the Cumberland Plateau in East Tennessee.
Copyright 2006 by the Associated Press. All rights reserved.
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