On January 11, 2018, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) released its “scientific review” of the Canada lynx in the contiguous U.S., which concluded that the species “may no longer warrant protection” under the ESA (Endangered Species Act of 1973).
An estimated 2,000 Canada lynx remain in the wild, its range extends from Maine, to northeastern Minnesota, and westward to western Montana, northeastern Idaho, north-central Washington and western Colorado. Lynx are a long-legged cousin of the bobcat – with tufted ears. Lynx can grow almost 36 inches long and weigh up to 30 pounds. These reclusive, snow-loving cats prefer dense forest habitat and feed primarily on the snowshoe hare, but will take pine squirrels when times are tough.
According to the Fish and Wildlife Service’s own scientist, Megan Kosterman, 50% of each lynx home range must be mature, dense forest to provide optimal habitat for lynx to breed and raise kittens, and no more than 15 percent of each lynx home range should be clearcut. Not a single National Forest is complying with this ecological recommendation – a system failure devastating to population trajectories. FWS refuses to address this issue.
The FWS readily admits the possibility of the creatures being “functionally extirpated” from some of their main population centers during this century, the agency will nevertheless “begin development of a proposed rule to delist the species.”
Without a shred of credible evidence, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wrote: “Considering the available information, we found no reliable information that the current distribution and abundance of resident lynx in the contiguous United States are substantially reduced from historical conditions.” The agency, of course, has no estimated current population number of lynx because the agency simply has no idea. The reason is simple; the agency no longer monitors lynx populations.
Trapping lynx was outlawed 17 years ago following the Endangered Species Act listing, but lynx numbers continued to plummet because past and current logging and road-building has destroyed the dense, mature and old growth forests upon which lynx rely for reproduction and survival. Lynx can no longer be found in the Gallatin Range, North of Yellowstone National Park. Lynx numbers are falling in the Seeley-Swan Valley, which is the largest lynx population in Montana. In 1990, there was a resident population of lynx in the Garnet Mountains northeast of Missoula, most likely living there since the last Ice Age. Now, they’re gone too.
The last population estimate in Montana by Dr. John Squires, a Forest Service lynx scientist, was “about 300” lynx in Montana. In 1994, Montana’s Department of Fish Wildlife and Parks estimated there were 700 to 1,050 lynx throughout Western Montana. FWS ignores simple arithmetic, and the obvious decline in lynx populations.
In 2014, the U.S. District Court for the District of Montana ruled the FWS had violated the ESA through its delay. It mandated the agency to either release a plan by 2018, or determine that such a plan would be unnecessary. The agency chose the latter. The real method to FWS’s delisting madness is to nullify a court deadline this week that required that FWS finally, after its pathetic 17-year delay, to produce a recovery plan for lynx. Rather than produce the court-ordered recovery plan by the deadline, FWS simply filed a document arguing that lynx no longer need any protections under the Endangered Species Act. FWS does not need to produce a recovery plan. This is a transparent attempt to circumvent the law and court order.
The arithmetic and science inform us that lynx and lynx habitat are in decline. There has been no lynx recovery since 2000.
Don’t let politics trump science and common sense! I urge you to contact FWS Regional Director Noreen Walsh and demand that FWS retract its recommendation to delist the lynx. The science, facts, and law require a recovery plan for this imperiled species, not the complete elimination of existing protections.
Noreen Walsh, Regional Director, FWS Mountain-Prairie Region Telephone: (303) 236-7920 Email: Noreen_Walsh@fws.gov Street Address: 134 Union Blvd, Lakewood, CO 80228 Mailing Address: PO Box 25486, Denver, CO 80225