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Lynx in New Mexico in Legal Limbo

Groups sue to protect the rare cats in the Southwest

Today, a coalition of conservation and animal protection groups, with the assistance of attorneys at the Western Environmental Law Center, filed a lawsuit in Washington, DC over the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service's failure to protect the lynx in New Mexico.

The organizations, including WildEarth Guardians, Center for Native Ecosystems, Born Free USA, Animal Protection of New Mexico, and Carson Forest Watch, filed an Endangered Species Act ("ESA") petition in 2007 to ensure that the highly imperiled cats do not lose their legal protection once they cross from Colorado (where they are protected as a threatened species under the ESA) into New Mexico (where they are not protected under the ESA).

"Lynx do not recognize lines on a map," said Nicole Rosmarino of WildEarth Guardians. "These magnificent and rare cats must be protected wherever they wander," said Rosmarino.

Lynx from a successful reintroduction program 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 have no legal protection. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service used the border between the two states as an arbitrary dividing line for the purpose of listing the species as threatened (see maps and related materials available for download below).

"Time is of the essence," said Matthew Bishop, the Western Environmental Law Center attorney representing the groups. "The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service needs to take immediate action on our petition to provide protective status to lynx entering New Mexico. We now know that lynx are consistently crossing into New Mexico and that the number of individuals entering the State has increased since reintroduction efforts began back in 1999. In fact, to date, 60 individual lynx have left Colorado and entered New Mexico, and, of these lynx, at least 14 have been killed."

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 (see maps available for download below). Given the high mortality rate for lynx traveling in New Mexico, the groups argue that Endangered Species Act protections for lynx in New Mexico are imperative to their survival.

"The government is now six months late in acting on this petition," said Rosmarino. "Yet, the evidence they need in order to act is staring back at them from the maps. What's the hold up?"

View the complaint, petition, and maps below

For more information, contact: Matthew Bishop | Western Environmental Law Center | 406.443.3501 | Nicole Rosmarino | Wildlife Program Director | WildEarth Guardians | 505.988.9126 ext. 1156 |

Maps and related materials

Read the complaint (PDF) opens in new window

Read the petition (PDF) opens in new window

Map: Canada Lynx Recovery Areas (PDF)

Map: Use-density surface for lynx satellite locations in New Mexico September 1999 - March 2007

Map: Use-density surface for lynx satellite locations in Colorado and New Mexico September 1999 - March 2007

Map: Lynx distribution in the western U.S. with mortality sites

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.


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