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Conservationists argue that the Canada lynx, a native predator and threatened wildcat protected under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in southern Colorado, should also be protected in northern New Mexico
Additional Contact: Matthew Bishop, Western Environmental Law Center, 505-751-0351, firstname.lastname@example.org
Santa Fe, New Mexico - A coalition of conservation groups today filed a formal petition seeking ESA protection for Canada lynx throughout the wildcat’s entire Southern Rocky Mountain range which includes north-central New Mexico. The Western Environmental Law Center filed the formal petition with the U.S. Department of Interior, which oversees the Fish and Wildlife Service (“FWS”), on behalf of six conservation groups.
Colorado’s lynx are protected under the ESA, but when the exact same lynx crosses the state border into New Mexico, as they often do, the protection ends.
“Using artificial political boundaries such as the Colorado State line to deprive lynx entering New Mexico of protections under the ESA has no basis in science, policy, or law,” said Matthew Bishop, an attorney with the Western Environmental Law Center in Taos, NM representing the organizations.
Over the last few years, at least 6 lynx have been killed in New Mexico (two were shot near Chama, New Mexico, one was hit by a car, and a cut radio collar was found in a dump near Taos, New Mexico). The Colorado Department of Wildlife (“CDOW”) recognizes that lynx mortalities occur throughout the recovery area. However, CDOW determined that “mortalities occurred in New Mexico in higher proportion to all lynx locations in that area than elsewhere.”
The mountainous regions of north-central New Mexico are now part of the lynx’s current range in the Southern Rockies thanks to the CDOW’s reintroduction efforts. In an effort to establish and restore a viable population of lynx to the Southern Rockies, the CDOW began releasing lynx into a “core recovery area” in southwestern Colorado’s San Juan Mountains in 1999 (just before the March 24, 2000 listing).
Today, CDOW estimates that there are approximately 138 lynx now living in theSouthern Rockies. And that majority of lynx released remain in the San Juan Mountains - from north-central New Mexico north to Gunnison, west as far as Taylor Mesa and east to Monarch Pass. Lynx released into the core recovery area continue to migrate south along the San Juan Mountains into northern New Mexico. The most recent data from the CDOW states that approximately 81 individual lynx have been located in north-central New Mexico.
“These magnificent wildcats are making their way back to their native home in NewMexico,” said Bryan Bird, Public Lands Director at WildEarth Guardians. “The science has never been clearer: these cats were historically in the state and consequently require the safety net provided by the Endangered Species Act until their populations are stable again.”
Despite the well-documented presence of lynx and their principle food, snowshoe hare, in the state, the FWS continues to claim that lynx in New Mexico have no legal protections under the Endangered Species Act and thus the agencies that manage its habitat assert no responsibility under the Act.
“Pursuant to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s current interpretation of the lynx’s listing status, a radio-collared lynx reintroduced into Colorado’s San Juan Mountains that chases a snowshoe hare into New Mexico’s San Juan Mountains will lose its protective status during the time it spends in New Mexico.” This “absurd result,” said Bishop, “is contrary to the conservation and recovery goals of the ESA.”
The Western Environmental Law Center (Taos, NM) is representing WildEarth Guardians(Santa Fe, NM), Center for Native Ecosystems (Paonia, CO) Animal Protection of NewMexico (Albuquerque, NM), Carson Forest Watch (Llano, NM), Sinapu (Boulder, CO),and Animal Protection Institute (Sacramento, CA).