Victory! Canada Lynx ESA Protection

9/11/2014: Victory! After eight years of advocacy and litigation, today the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced it will list the New Mexico population of Canada lynx as threatened with extinction under the Endangered Species Act, and extend that protection to wherever lynx occur in the contiguous United States.


Reintroduced lynx into southwestern Colorado continue to travel and explore suitable habitat throughout the species’ Southern Rocky Mountain range – from south-central Wyoming, through western Colorado, and into north-central New Mexico’s San Juan and Sangre de Cristo Mountains. 

Despite this fact, Federal and State agencies, including the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) refuse to provide federal protections for threatened lynx entering the mountainous regions of New Mexico. 

According to the federal agencies, as soon as listed lynx cross the state boundary between Colorado and New Mexico they no longer receive federal protections under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and can be shot and killed. 

What caused this problem? In 2000, when FWS brought Canada lynx under protection of the ESA, it failed to recognize that the wildcat’s historic range included New Mexico and mistakenly used the Colorado state line to demarcate its boundary for protection. 

So while Colorado spends millions of dollars to rebuild the lynx population, cats that regularly migrate south into the mountains of New Mexico lose all protections and are routinely shot and killed. 

Outraged by this simple but disastrous error, we launched what turned out to be a protracted, multi-year battle with FWS to provide lynx the protection they need and deserve while in New Mexico.

In August 2007, we filed a formal petition on behalf of a coalition of local conservation groups requesting the agency amend the lynx’s protected boundaries to include New Mexico. After receiving no response, we filed a lawsuit to compel one. 

In December 2009, the agency came back with a “warranted but precluded” finding, meaning that while ESA protections are warranted for lynx in New Mexico, the agency has higher priorities and the lynx will have to wait. What’s more, the agency placed the wildcat at the end of a line of 245 species awaiting protection. Absent further legal action, lynx would not have received protective status in New Mexico for a decade or more. 

This would not do. We again sued in August 2010, this time requesting that the agency re-visit and justify the findings, and urging the immediate correction of the lynx’s federal protections. 

Victory! 9/11/2014. After eight years of advocacy and litigation, today the U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service announced it will list the New Mexico population of
Canada lynx as threatened with extinction under the Endangered Species
Act, and extend that protection to wherever lynx occur in the contiguous
United States.

Many years and two lawsuits later, lynx will finally get the protection necessary for its long-term survival and recovery in the Southern Rockies. 

Winning protection for lynx throughout its habitat in the Southern Rocky Mountains is one piece of WELC’s commitment to helping this formerly banished cat reclaim its birthright in the Southern and Northern Rockies.  

(WELC project #296)
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