Rare Canada Lynx Finally Wins Protection

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(03/21/2000) - Defenders of Wildlife today welcomed a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) announcement that it has listed the Canada lynx in the lower 48 states as a threatened species. Today’s listing gives the elusive, rare cat protection under the Endangered Species Act. Defenders and more than a dozen other conservation groups sued the service a week ago over its failure to carry out a 1998 agreement on the listing.

“After almost 20 years of delay and numerous lawsuits, this is clearly a victory for the lynx and its forest habitat," said Mike Senatore, Legal Division director for Defenders of Wildlife which has been involved in litigation to protect the lynx for nearly a decade. “While we are still waiting to analyze the final rule and to determine how the Fish and Wildlife Service intends to recover the species, we hope that this listing will help ensure the survival of the lynx throughout our northern forests."

The only lynx species in North America, the Canada lynx is a medium-sized wild cat that lives in northern forests. The lynx has large feet that function like snowshoes to give the cat the ability to hunt on deep snow. The species feeds primarily on snowshoe hares, other small mammals and birds. Lynxes historically roamed throughout the northern U.S., but today their population has dropped to a few hundred individuals. Lynx populations have suffered significant declines because of logging, roadbuilding and other causes of habitat loss. The first petition for federal listing was filed in 1982. Defenders said the listing delay brought the species perilously close to extinction.

Despite the long-awaited action, conservationists have concerns that the final rule may not be adequate. Conservationists urged endangered rather than threatened listing in the Northeast, Great Lakes, Cascades and southern Rockies and also urged designation of critical habitat.

“If we determine after a complete analysis of the final rule that the Fish and Wildlife Service has not adequately ensured the survival and recovery of the lynx throughout its range in the lower 48 States, we will not hesitate to pursue additional legal action," said Jasper Carlton, executive director of the Colorado-based Biodiversity Legal Foundation. “We will be particularly vigilant in taking appropriate action to prevent the agency from writing off efforts to recover the lynx in significant part of its range."

Besides Defenders, plaintiffs in the lawsuit were the Biodiversity Legal Foundation, Northwest Ecosystem Alliance, Restore: The North Woods, Superior Wilderness Action Network, Humane Society of the United States, Minnesota Ecosystem Recovery Project, Oregon Natural Resources Council, Fund for Animals, Kettle Range Conservation Group, Predator Conservation Alliance, American Lands Alliance, Voice of the Environment, Mark Skatrud and Evan Frost. The groups were represented by Eric Glitzenstein of Meyer & Glitzenstein, the Washington, D.C. law firm.

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Contact(s):

Cat Lazaroff, (202) 772-3270

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