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Government agrees to issue key lynx finding by December 15
SANTA FE, N.M. - Conservationists and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (Service) reached a legal settlement today, requiring the government to issue a finding by December 15 on a petition to federally protect the lynx in New Mexico. The agreement stems from a lawsuit filed earlier this year by conservation groups represented by the Western Environmental Law Center. Lynx are protected elsewhere in the lower 48 states under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) but enjoy no federal protection in New Mexico.
The organizations are WildEarth Guardians, Center for Native Ecosystems, Born Free USA, Animal Protection of New Mexico, and Carson Forest Watch. They filed the petition in 2007 aiming to ensure that the highly imperiled cats do not lose their legal protection once they cross from Colorado into New Mexico.
“Lynx need the freedom to roam. They don’t recognize lines on a map,” said Rob Edward of WildEarth Guardians. “The court’s mandated deadline is a ray of hope for lynx in the Southwest,” said Edward.
Lynx reintroduced in southern Colorado-where the cats are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act-face significant risks when crossing into north-central New Mexico, where they enjoy no legal safeguards.
“It’s time to give lynx in New Mexico the same protections that they are afforded in Colorado and other parts of their range,” said Josh Pollock, Executive Director of the Center for Native Ecosystems. “We can’t be good stewards of these rare cats if we don’t legally protect them wherever they roam.”
Matthew Bishop, the Western Environmental Law Center attorney representing the groups, said, “We’re pleased that lynx in New Mexico will finally have a chance at federal protection.” Bishop indicated that time is of the essence, as lynx crossing into New Mexico face significant threats without legal protection.
Lynx are consistently roaming into New Mexico. The number of individuals entering the State has increased since reintroduction efforts in Colorado began back in 1999. Maps and data from the Colorado Division of Wildlife indicate that approximately 60 lynx have wandered into north-central New Mexico from Colorado since 1999. At least 14 have been killed. Given the high mortality rate for lynx traveling in New Mexico, the groups argue that ESA protections for lynx in New Mexico are imperative to their survival.
Download the court order here.
Maps and related materials
Read the complaint (PDF) opens in new window
Read the petition (PDF) opens in new window
All three color maps showing the distribution of Canada Lynx in Colorado available for use courtesy of of the Colorado Division of Wildlife, and document: Shenk, Tanya N. 2007. Colorado Division of Wildlife -- Wildlife Research Monitoring of Lynx (Lynx Canadensis) Reintroduced Into Colorado.