CRITICAL HABITAT FOR CANADA LYNX

I can’t agree with my pal Jym that this was “astounding.” Given any other administration than Dubya’s, it would have been. STATEMENT OF JYM ST. PIERRE MAINE DIRECTOR, RESTORE: THE NORTH WOODS CONCERNING FAILURE TO DESIGNATE CRITICAL HABITAT FOR CANADA LYNX IN MAINE November 8, 2006 The decision by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to not designate any lands in Maine as critical habitat for Canada lynx is astounding. Equally shocking is the Alice in Wonderland justification the agency has given. [http://mountain-prairie.fws.gov/species/mammals/lynx/criticalhabitat.htm] For more than a dozen years conservationists have been working to get stronger protection for Canada lynx in the United States. Sadly, we have had to go to court again and again to get the USFWS to comply with the Endangered Species Act. The courts have found repeatedly that the agency has failed. The lynx is listed as a Threatened Species under the national Endangered Species Act and as a Species of Special Concern by the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. Enhancing protection of its habitat is crucial to its survival, especially in Maine, which has the only breeding population of Canada lynx in the entire eastern United States. However, instead of enhancing protection of habitat for an imperiled species, the USFWS has said it wants to protect its partnerships with private forest managers. Instead of defending the public interest at stake, the agency has said it wants to be best buddies with extractive industries. Instead of respecting the law, the agency has said it will disregard the law. Thousands of citizens, including hundreds from Maine, sent letters supporting designation of critical lynx habitat. Expert peer reviewers commented on ways to improve the critical habitat rule, including expanding, not excluding, more areas that are within the traditional range for lynx in the U.S. The USFWS has ignored all of that. The ruling is a slap in the face to the courts, to the Congress which passed the Endangered Species law, and to citizens who elected officials to protect our wildlife heritage. The latest ruling is so bad that it appears to be an open invitation to bring another legal challenge. With changes in the U.S. Congress, there likely will be oversight hearings by the legislative branch of this decision. With possible changes in the Department of Interior, there should be a review of this decision at the highest levels in the executive branch. If those fail to get the agency to comply with the clear intent of the law, no doubt there will be more challenges in the judicial branch. It is clear why Plum Creek and other large landowners in Maine have spent enormous time and money to lobby for exemption from the lynx habitat rule. The rule might get in the way of their lucrative development plans. What is not clear is why public officials would go out of their way to skirt the law in order to benefit private companies. Why should it be up to public interest organizations to have to bring appeals and lawsuits to get the public law of the land implemented by public agencies on behalf of an imperiled species? The lynx is a symbol of the wild Maine Woods, a region of national significance made legendary by Henry David Thoreau, Teddy Roosevelt, Justice William O. Douglas and other of grand conservation vision. Without this native animal, the Maine Woods, and our species, would be much poorer. Our generation should to do everything we can to help the imperiled lynx in Maine to survive and thrive.