The U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced Thursday that it has begun the process of offering endangered species protection to the Canada lynx, a big furry cat that is protected in other states. As NMI has noted, the animal was reintroduced to Colorado 1999, and since then, approximately 60 of the cats have wandered into northern New Mexico. At least 14 have been killed.
The service was required to make a determination on the lynx as a result of a lawsuit brought by the Western Environmental Law Center on behalf of several environmental groups, including WildEarth Guardians.
“This is stage one, when they say ‘This has sufficient merits for us to consider it and we’ll take 12 months to mull it over further.’ If they issue a positive finding in 12 months then they will change the listing status for the lynx in New Mexico,” says Rob Edward, carnivore recovery director for WildEarth Guardians.
Why did WildEarth Guardians have to sue the federal agency to protect the lynx? “Well, the short answer is that we’ve been working for the last eight years under the Bush administration, which had no interest in doing much of anything for endangered species.”
The longer answer, Edward says, is that “The Fish and Wildlife Service is functioning under political pressure or simple budget pressure and they have to push back on things that they don’t have the budget or political cover for.” Like protecting the big furry lynx.
While Edward is hopeful that conditions for endangered species will improve in an Obama administration, he is less than pleased about Colorado Sen. Ken Salazar, Obama’s nominee for Department of the Interior.
“We’re going to have to take a wait-and-see approach at this point. … [Obama] could have done much better than [Salazar],” Edward says. WildEarth Guardians and other groups had pushed for the nomination of Arizona Rep. Raul Grijalva, a progressive member of the House Natural Resources Committee and the chair of the Subcommittee on National Parks, Forest and Public Lands.
“We certainly hope that Secretary Salazar will be much more of a friend to endangered species… than his voting record and actions would indicate,” Edward says.
While you wait to see what kind of Secretary Salazar will make, if confirmed by the Senate, you can amuse yourselves with this neat-o chart of lynx distribution in the West. Lotsa dots in New Mexico!