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Suit Filed Challenging Ken Salazar's Refusal to Perform Simple Task
Denver, CO Aug. 17. WildEarth Guardians today challenged the refusal by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to grant federal protection to lynx in New Mexico. While the lynx could have been listed under the Endangered Species Act last December with the stroke of Mr. Salazar’s pen, he instead put the animal at the end of a line of 245 species awaiting listing. The lynx will therefore not receive protection for likely a decade or more.
“It took over two years for Interior to come to the realization that lynx in northern New Mexico need federal protection,” said Matthew Bishop, at attorney with the Western Environmental Law Center representing Guardians. “Now Secretary Salazar says he needs ten more years -- perhaps longer -- to simply update and correct the March 2000 rule listing lynx to include New Mexico. This is absurd.”
For a species to enjoy Endangered Species Act safeguards, it must be added to the list of endangered or threatened species. The national listing program continues to stagnate, with only 1 new U.S. species in the lower 48 states listed thus far under Secretary Salazar. In its December decision on the lynx in New Mexico, Mr. Salazar complained that, while listing was appropriate, it was “precluded” by higher priorities. Today’s lawsuit charges that Ken Salazar is not listing higher priority species, but rather he is listing few new species at all.
“Ken Salazar could have protected this species months ago but continues to make up excuses to avoid doing his job: protecting this nation’s imperiled animals and plants. Mr. Salazar is turning a blind eye to the kill zone that New Mexico has become for lynx wandering down from Colorado,” stated Nicole Rosmarino of WildEarth Guardians.
Lynx are currently protected elsewhere in the lower 48 states under the Endangered Species Act but are stripped of their protections once they enter the mountainous regions of northern New Mexico. In contrast, in a decision published in the Federal Register at the same time as the lynx decision, Secretary Salazar provided an animal in a similar situation (the Ramsey Canyon leopard frog) with immediate protection, in the course of just one paragraph of text.
In 2007, Matthew Bishop of the Western Environmental Law Center filed a petition in 2007 on behalf of WildEarth Guardians, Center for Native Ecosystems, Born Free USA, Animal Protection of New Mexico, and Carson Forest Watch to ensure that the highly imperiled cats do not lose their legal protection once they cross from Colorado into New Mexico. Today’s lawsuit is a challenge of Secretary Salazar’s handling of that petition.
Lynx consistently roam into New Mexico. The number of cats entering the State has increased since reintroduction efforts in Colorado began back in 1999 and to date at least 61 individual lynx have traveled into the State. Maps and data from a 2009 Colorado Division of Wildlife report indicate that New Mexico includes high density lynx use areas. Without federal protection, at least 14 lynx have been killed in New Mexico primarily due to human causes such as gunshot and vehicle collisions. Given the high mortality for lynx traveling in New Mexico, federal protections for lynx in New Mexico are imperative to their long-term survival. Colorado’s report said that lynx may be occurring year-round and even reproducing in New Mexico.