Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Colorado left out of critical habitat for lynx

Wildlife advocates protest the decision, but the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says the cat already receives protection as a "threatened" species.

By Jeremy P. Meyer
Denver Post Staff Writer
Article Last Updated:11/09/2006 10:05:39 PM MST

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decided not to include any Colorado land among the 1,841 miles of critical habitat it designated Thursday for the threatened Canada lynx.

The service's final ruling drew protests from wildlife advocates.

"If we're serious in Colorado about recovering lynx, we have to protect habitat," said Jacob Smith, director of the Center for Native Ecosystems in Denver.

The Fish and Wildlife Service's ruling on lynx critical habitat was sharply reduced from the 18,031 square miles initially proposed.

The critical habitat will be in national parks in Washington state, Montana and Minnesota.

Colorado, which is in the southern edge of the lynx's historic range, was never included in the critical habitat proposal.

The Colorado program has reintroduced more than 200 cats to the southern Rockies since 1999.

State officials believe 120 lynx kittens have been born in the state since the program began. This spring, a Colorado-born lynx gave birth to kittens for the first time.

Two lynx have been found shot to death in Colorado the past two weeks, prompting officials and conservation groups to offer a reward for information leading to the arrest of the shooter.

Federal officials say the lynx already gets protections as "threatened" under the Endangered Species Act and the critical habitat designation would have been redundant.

"The benefit of designating critical habitat is very minimal," said Lori Nordstrom, a biologist with the Fish and Wildlife Service. "It's just another layer of what we already do to protect the lynx."

Critical habitat is an area with physical or biological features key to the conservation of the species and that may need special management or protection.

In the final ruling, areas designated as lynx critical habitat were close to Canada, Nordstrom said.

Colorado's lynx population didn't meet the criteria because it hasn't been proved to be self-sustaining, said Diane Katzenberger, Fish and Wildlife Service spokeswoman.

"It's very bad news for the lynx and bad news for endangered wildlife across the country," said John Kostyack, senior counsel for the National Wildlife Federation.

Staff writer Jeremy P. Meyer can be reached at 303-954-1367 or jpmeyer@denverpost.com.


No comments: