Defenders in Action: Protecting Critical Habitat for Lynx
Canada lynx were officially protected under the Endangered Species Act in 2000. Unfortunately, federal protections often have little practical effect until critical habitat is designated for the species.
In 2006, Bush administration officials ignored the best available science and issued a critical habitat designation for lynx that included just two national parks in the western United States. The move catered to the timber industry, which didn’t want any additional restrictions on logging in our national forests.
How We’re Helping
Defenders and our conservation allies threatened to take legal action and urged the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to revisit its flawed critical habitat designation. In 2009, the Service expanded the critical habitat designation to protect 20 times as much land as the initial Bush administration proposal, including parts of our national forests and some important private lands. Then, in 2010, Defenders and our colleagues joined the Service in defending the designation from attack by snowmobile groups in Washington and Wyoming.
Where We Are Today
While lynx are now listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act and their critical habitat has been protected, the FWS has yet to develop and implement a recovery plan. That’s why we’re pushing federal wildlife officials to develop a comprehensive strategy that puts lynx on the road to long-term recovery throughout its range.
At the same time, threats to lynx habitat have not gone away. For example, oil and gas companies have plans in the work to drill new wells in the Upper Hoback region of the Wyoming Range, right in the middle of a key movement corridor for lynx. Last fall, Defenders helped monitor wildlife populations in the area with remote cameras to document what’s at stake. And we’re working with our local partners in Wyoming to make sure that any drilling proposals take sensitive lynx habitat into account.