Lawmakers urge feds to move on lynx recovery
SUMMIT COUNTY – With Colorado’s lynx re-introduction program showing early signs of success, state lawmakers want the federal government to complete a formal recovery plan that would provide a road map for ultimately delisting the wild cat.A joint resolution (HJR 06-1022) by the Colorado House and Senate urges the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to adopt a formal recovery plan for the Canada lynx that clearly identifies goals and the steps required to achieve recovery of this native Colorado cat.The lynx is currently identified as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act.The resolution passed the House Friday in a voice vote, with only a few lawmakers shouting out nays, according to its primary sponsor, Democratic State Rep. Judy Solano.”The Division of Wildlife has worked long and hard to effectively do the reintroduction program only to be thwarted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service … bureaucracy,” said State Rep. Gary Lindstrom, of Breckenridge. “I am getting sick and tired of the anti-environmental attitude of the federal government. It appears that the federal government is not doing anything or enough to assist in the recovery program.”Provisional timeline
Even though the Fish and Wildlife Service hasn’t yet started on a formal lynx recovery plan, the agency did finalize an interim recovery outline that specifically addresses the status of Colorado’s lynx population, designating the southern Rockies as a “provisional core area.” “For the last couple of years, we’ve been under a court order to develop a critical habitat proposal,” said Lori Nordstrom, the lead federal lynx biologist. Before that, the agency was being sued to force the listing of lynx in the first place. The litigation diverted resources away from the biological recovery efforts, Nordstrom said.U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologists want to start work on a formal recovery plan for the threatened cats in early 2007, once a critical habitat designation has been completed. A draft recovery plan could be available for public comment in January 2008 under a timetable envisioned by an interim recovery outline approved late last year.The recovery outline is intended primarily as temporary internal guidance, pending completion of the formal recovery plan required by the Endangered Species Act. Under the recovery outline, federal biologists have divided lynx habitat into “core, secondary and peripheral” areas. The most intensive recovery efforts will focus on the core areas, where self-sustaining lynx populations have persisted.According to the outline, the role of the non-core areas in sustaining lynx populations is still unclear. For now, Colorado’s lynx are in a limbo, designated as a provisional core area. Based on the evolving status of the state’s re-introduced lynx population, the state could someday be designated as a full-fledged core area. As envisioned under the outline, that would set the stage for more intensive monitoring and management.Lynx recovery means attaining conditions “that will allow lynx to persist long-term within each of the identified core areas,” according to the outline. That means maintaining adequate habitat within the core areas, as well as connectivity between core areas, secondary areas and adjacent lynx populations in Canada.How many is enough?
The Fish and Wildlife Service hasn’t yet been able to come up with any meaningful lynx numbers for the core areas around the country. According to the recovery outline, it’s not practical to establish demographic criteria for de-listing. The highly cyclical nature of lynx populations makes the equation even more complex. Federal action on lynx recovery has been bogged down in a morass of administrative and legal proceedings, including a painfully slow effort by the U.S. Forest Service to develop a set of forest plan standards and guidelines for national forests in the Southern Rockies where lynx roam. The agency has been working on those measures for about six years, with leadership of the project being handed around like a hot potato.State lawmakers hope is that a clearly defined recovery plan acknowledging Colorado’s reintroduction program could lead to a de-listing, a move that would remove the potential for any draconian land use restrictions.Conservation groups, on the other hand, say that protecting habitat is the key missing piece of the lynx recovery puzzle. The informal recovery outline doesn’t have any teeth under the Endangered Species Act, and wildlife advocates are concerned that the federal agency won’t meet its self-imposed timetable.Protected habitat is needed to enable a connection among pods of lynx populations to create functional metapopulations and to protect against foreseeable threats like global climate change, highway expansions and development in lynx habitat, including ski area expansions, oil and gas drilling, as well as logging and mining, a coalition of conservation groups wrote in a formal comment letter on the draft federal habitat plan.On the web
Find links to lynx-related background documents by going to the web version of this story at http://www.summitdaily.com. View the USFW’s “Recovery Outline” for Canada lynx at http://mountain-prairie.fws.gov/species/mammals/lynx/recovery.htm.For more Summit Daily lynx stories and a video of a recent lynx release, go to https://www.summitdaily.com/article/20060404/NEWS/60403008&SearchID=73243542790159.To view the Colorado lynx resolution, go to http://www.leg.state.co.us/Clics2006A/csl.nsf/Search?OpenFrameSet.For the latest U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service information on the lynx critical habitat draft plan, go to http://www.fws.gov/midwest/News/Release06-12.html.For more information on the Forest Service’s Southern Rockies lynx plan, go to http://www.epa.gov/fedrgstr/EPA-IMPACT/2004/December/Day-30/i28659.htm.Bob Berwyn can be reached at (970) 331-5996, or at email@example.com.
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