Friday, March 13, 2009

Groups say designated lynx habitat inadequate

POSTED: Friday, Mar. 13, 2009

The Associated Press

Some environmental groups say the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's twentyfold increase in the designation of critical habitat for Canada lynx falls short, and they will sue the agency if the designation is not revised.

Represented by the Oregon-based Western Environmental Law Center, the groups this week sent the Interior Department 60 days notice of intent to sue over the habitat designation announced in February. It is inadequate because it covers too little of Montana, and does not include northeastern Washington and the southern Rocky Mountains in Colorado, the organizations say. Among them are the Sierra Club, Colorado Wild, the Alliance for the Wild Rockies and Great Old Broads for Wilderness.

"We stand by the critical habitat designation because we do believe that it provides for the conservation and recovery of lynx," FWS spokeswoman Diane Katzenberger in Denver said Friday.

In February the service revised a Bush administration habitat designation influenced by Julie MacDonald, deputy assistant Interior secretary who resigned in 2007 amid findings that she pressured federal scientists to alter conclusions on certain matters.

Fish and Wildlife Service lynx biologist Shawn Sartorius of Helena said last month that parts of the southern Rockies have good lynx habitat, but only in relatively small patches. The environmental groups say lynx were reintroduced to Colorado in 1999, have become established in the region and need protection of their forest habitat in Colorado, southern Wyoming and northern New Mexico.

In northeastern Washington and areas of Montana, the revised habitat designation excludes places important in providing connections for lynx habitat in Canada and the northwestern states, and between the northern and southern Rockies, the groups say.

The habitat designation applies to about 39,000 square miles in six states, up from 1,841 square miles in three states under the designation adopted in 2006. The new habitat map expanded the territory designated in Minnesota, Montana and Washington, and added lands in Maine, Idaho and Wyoming.

Critical habitat identifies places with features essential for conservation of a threatened or endangered species.

The designation can bring restrictions on logging or other land uses, but Sartorius said he expects the lynx decision to hold few ramifications for owners of private land. U.S. Forest Service practices already took into account the needs of lynx, and therefore that agency is unlikely to face new requirements, he said.

http://www.bellinghamherald.com/northwest/story/829706.html

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