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Lynx Not Welcome In New Mexico – Coalition Challenges Forest Service Refusal to Protect Lynx
“Public lands in north-central New Mexico can provide important lynx habitat if they are managed wisely,” said Dr. Nicole Rosmarino, Endangered Species Director for WildEarth Guardians. “Our only request here is that the Forest Service consider how land uses on National Forests are hurting this imperiled native cat.”
While National Forests in both Colorado and Wyoming have consulted with the Fish and Wildlife Service in assessing the impact of their land management operations on lynx in the Southern Rockies, New Mexico’s National Forests have refused to do the same. It is especially important that New Mexico National Forests do so because of their proximity to the Core Lynx Release Area and because lynx have been documented recently in Taos, Rio Arriba, and San Juan Counties. The Colorado Division of Wildlife has documented lynx use of travel linkages extending into northern New Mexico. Twenty of the reintroduced lynx are considered missing, some of which may inhabit New Mexico. Over the last three years, at least four lynx have been killed in New Mexico.
Despite the well-documented presence of lynx in the state, the regional Forest Service erroneously claims that lynx in New Mexico have no legal protections under the Endangered Species Act. The Forest Service claims, in a December 2003 letter, that lynx should not be considered a species native to New Mexico. Yet, the Lynx Science Report, authored by federal agency biologists and the most current and comprehensive compilation of science on lynx, clearly establishes that lynx historically inhabited New Mexico.
“It’s unfortunate that we have to go to court over this issue,” said Matthew Bishop an attorney with the Western Environmental Law Center who is representing the Coalition. “We had hoped that by informing the Forest Service about the existence and even death of lynx in the Carson and Santa Fe National Forests, we could find resolution without resorting to litigation.”
A 1999 assessment by the Forest Service found that Forest Plans in the Southern Rockies may harm lynx and lynx habitat. To address the impacts from activities such as excessive logging, overgrazing, fire suppression, carnivore control, and motorized recreation, the assessment recommended amending or revising all Forest Plans to incorporate conservation measures that would reduce or eliminate the adverse effects to lynx. The Carson and Santa Fe National Forests did not participate in the assessment of impacts to lynx or in a subsequent conservation agreement.
“The fate of the lynx still hangs very much in the balance,” explained Erin Robertson, Staff Biologist for Center for Native Ecosystems. “The Forest Service needs to step up and do its part to protect New Mexico lynx habitat.”
The same coalition of groups filed a complaint in October 2003 against the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services over that agency’s refusal to review the impacts of its lethal predator control programs on the lynx in northern New Mexico and southwestern Colorado.
Representing WildEarth Guardians (Santa Fe, NM), Center for Native Ecosystems (Paonia, Colorado), Animal Protection of New Mexico (Albuquerque), Carson Forest Watch (Llano, New Mexico), Sinapu (Boulder, Colorado), and Animal Protection Institute (Sacramento, California), the Western Environmental Law Center’s Southwest Office (Taos, New Mexico) sent a letter to the regional forester and filed the complaint in federal court in Santa Fe.