U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Ruling on Lynx to Be Challenged by Conservationists

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(05/03/2000) - Defenders of Wildlife, 12 other conservation groups and one individual today notified the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) of their intent to challenge, in federal court, the legal and scientific adequacy of the agency’s final Endangered Species Act (ESA) listing rule regarding the Canada lynx.

The lawsuit will be filed no earlier than mid-July, as a result of an ESA requirement that citizens give the government at least a 60-day notice of intent to sue.

The pending challenge to the FWS is the continuation of a ten-year effort, including three lawsuits, by conservationists to protect the lynx under the ESA. The coalition alleges that although the lynx is now listed as threatened, FWS failed to ensure the cat’s survival and recovery throughout its historic range in the lower 48 states. The coalition charges that FWS has written-off a majority of the cat’s remaining populations and failed to properly address multiple threats to the species.

“Plain and simple, the Fish and Wildlife Service has once again failed in its duty to ensure the conservation of the lynx," said Rodger Schlickeisen, president of Defenders of Wildlife. “The lynx has already been eliminated from most of its historic range in the lower 48 states, yet the agency appears more than willing to allow the cat’s decline to continue. This is not what the American public expects from our nation’s top wildlife conservation agency."

The coalition of conservationists is particularly troubled by three aspects of the final rule: first, FWS’s conclusion that three- quarters of the officially recognized lynx regions – Northeast, Great Lakes and southern Rockies – and non-federal lands, are not necessary for the species’ recovery; second, FWS’s refusal to list the lynx as endangered throughout the contiguous U.S., despite multiple threats to its survival; and third, the agency’s failure to designate critical habitat for the species.

“The Fish and Wildlife Service’s failure to list the lynx as endangered throughout the U.S. and to designate critical habitat is simply unacceptable," said Jasper Carlton, executive director of Biodiversity Legal Foundation. “We are very concerned that the FWS has ignored a number of well-established threats to the species and has apparently made a conscious decision to write-off lynx in the Northeast, Great Lakes and southern Rockies, and on non-federal lands everywhere in the lower 48 states."

In 1994, conservationists petitioned the FWS to list the lynx under the ESA. FWS subsequently decided that listing was “not warranted." A lawsuit challenging that decision was filed by Defenders of Wildlife, Biodiversity Legal Foundation and others. U.S. District Court Judge Gladys Kessler supported the challenge and ordered FWS to issue a new finding. In 1997, FWS stated that listing the lynx was “warranted but precluded" by other priorities. Defenders and its lynx partners filed suit again, resulting in a settlement agreement and an order directing FWS to issue a proposed rule to list the lynx by June 30, 1998. A final decision was due January 8, 2000, but FWS missed that deadline and the organizations filed a third lawsuit. On March 13, 2000, FWS issued a final rule listing lynx in the contiguous U.S. as threatened.

Defenders of Wildlife is joined in its notice of intent to sue by: American Lands Alliance, Biodiversity Legal Foundation, Conservation Action Project, Friends of the Clearwater, The Fund for Animals, Humane Society of the U.S., Kettle Range Conservation Group, Mark Skatrud, Northwest Ecosystem Alliance, Oregon Natural Resources Fund, Predator Conservation Alliance, Restore: The North Woods and Superior Wilderness Action Network.

Defenders of Wildlife, founded in 1947, is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to the protection and restoration of native wild animals and plants in their natural communities.

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Contact(s):

Cat Lazaroff, (202) 772-3270

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