Lynx recovery plans forthcoming following U.S. Fish and Wildlife settlement
Canada lynx no longer being removed from Endangered Species Act protections
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will abandon plans to remove Endangered Species Act protections for the Canada Lynx in the contiguous U.S. and initiate recovery planning for the species, according to a Nov. 1 legal settlement reached by a group including Friends of the Wild Swan in Montana.
Lynx were reintroduced into the Southern Rocky Mountains in 1999 and appear to be doing OK, said Matthew Bishop, senior attorney at the Western Environmental Law Center. But elsewhere, lynx are in trouble.
“Due to climate change, related warming, and longer fire seasons, we’re seeing significant losses of lynx habitat in the few places that still support lynx,” Bishop said. “We’re also seeing range contraction, increased fragmentation, and decreases in population numbers in Washington, Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming.”
In 2013, Friends of the Wild Swan and others sued the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for failing to prepare a recovery plan for threatened lynx. The agency was directed to prepare a recovery plan by January 2018.
Prior to the January 2018 deadline, however, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service shifted its focus to delisting and removing protections for the species instead of recovery planning.
Bishop said it was nice to see the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service “reverse course, apply the best available climate science, and put its time and energy into recovery planning for the species.”
Following the Nov. 1 settlement, a tentative date of Dec. 1, 2024, was set for a final recovery plan.
“This is the right decision,” Bishop said.
In Colorado, Eagle County is part of a small and isolated lynx habitat.
Wilderness Workshop advocates say the group has been waiting for a lynx recovery plan for more than 20 years. In a recent discussion regarding wildlife habitat in the Homestake Valley of Eagle County, Juli Slivka with Wilderness Workshop shared a picture of a lynx in Eagle County.
A wildlife camera on a family cabin in the area captured the image in 2017, Slivka said.
But the Eagle County habitat is dangerous for lynx, which have been hit and killed on Vail Pass.
“Now is to time to focus on recovery planning and designating critical habitat,” Bishop said. “Kudos to the Fish and Wildlife Service for reversing course on Canada lynx.”
Surviving in Colorado
Groups that worked to obtain the settlement include Wild Swan, Rocky Mountain Wild, San Juan Citizens Alliance, WildEarth Guardians, Cascadia Wildlands and Oregon Wild.
Arlene Montgomery, program director for Friends of the Wild Swan, said lynx require the protections of the Endangered Species Act because threats from logging projects and climate change are degrading and fragmenting their habitat.
“They deserve a recovery plan that contains measurable criteria to address those threats and make sure that their populations increase, not decline to extinction,” Montgomery said.
Paige Singer, conservation biologist at Rocky Mountain Wild, said lynx are surviving today in Colorado thanks to the Endangered Species Act.
“The Fish and Wildlife Service providing clear recovery goals that serve to coordinate conservation among the various state and federal agencies involved in lynx management is critical to their recovery in the lower 48 states,” Singer said.