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Biodiversity: Feds finalize critical habitat for jaguars

Jaguar. Image via the Wikimedia Commons.

Jaguar. Image via the Wikimedia Commons.

Nearly 1,200 square miles of territory protected for recovery of native cats

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Nearly 17 years after federal biologists first listed jaguars under the Endangered Species Act, the wild cats may now have a protected area to roam in the wilds of the Southwest.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service this week designated about 1,200 square miles of rugged desert, mountain and forest lands in southern Arizona and New Mexico as critical habitat for jaguars — but only after a sustained legal push by the Center for Biological Diversity.

The federal wildlife agency initially resisted mapping out protected areas, claiming that the cats are too rare for habitat protection. Wildlife advocates challenged the agency’s position and a federal court rejected the government’s argument, leading to this week’s critical habitat listing notice in the Federal Register. The USFWS is also working on a jaguar recovery plan for the area. Continue reading

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Biodiversity: Feds propose more jaguar critical habitat

USFWS also seeking comment on a draft economic analysis

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A revised critical habitat designation for jaguars adds lands in Arizona’s Santa Rita Mountains, where a lone jaguar has been photographed several times in recent months.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Federal biologists have revised a critical habitat proposal for endangered jaguars in the southwest. The updated maps include areas in Arizona’s Santa Rita Mountains where a lone jaguar has been caught on camera several times in the past nine months.

Under the modified U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposal, released last week, a total of about 850,000 acres would be designated, including lands around a planned open-pit copper mine. Conservation advocates say the mine could interfere with the cats’ dispersal into North America. They hope the critical habitat designation will prevent approval of the mine.

Along with the updated habitat proposal, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service also released a draft economic analysis and draft environmental assessment of the proposed designation.

The economic analysis is a crucial issue relating to the proposed mine, because if the benefits of excluding an area outweigh the benefits of designating it, the agency can exclude an area from critical habitat, unless the exclusions would result in the extinction of the species. Continue reading

Wildlife advocates want more critical habitat for jaguars

Photo courtesy Bjørn Christian Tørrissen, via Wikipedia and the Creative Commons.

Feds plan to finalize critical habitat designation by the end of the year

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — A federal plan to designate more than 800,000 acres of critical habitat for endangered jaguars in the southwestern U.S. may not go far enough to ensure recovery for the wild cats, according to conservation activists. The USFWS proposal, including comment information, is posted online here.

”The best habitat for American jaguars lies in the vast and rugged Gila National Forest in New Mexico and adjoining pine forests in Arizona,” said Michael Robinson, a wildlife conservation advocate with the Center for Biological Diversity, which this week  filed a detailed 55-page comment letter with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service this week, urging the agency to add more habitat to the designation.

“The Fish and Wildlife Service has a moral duty to protect these special places, where jaguars once lived and which they should be able to call home again. Recovering jaguars in this region, so full of wilderness, will bolster the genetic strength of the struggling jaguar population in northern Mexico, too, helping to ensure that these great cats will always share our country with us,” Robinson said. Continue reading

Biodiversity: Feds propose critical habitat for jaguars

Photo courtesy Bjørn Christian Tørrissen, via Wikipedia and the Creative Commons.

Public comment sought on plan to protect 838,000 acres in Arizona and New Mexico

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — After outlining a vision for a jaguar conservation and recovery plan last month, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed designating more than 800,000 acres as critical habitat for the endangered cats.

Jaguars were listed as an endangered species in the U.S. in 1972. Internationally, they are listed as near-threatened on the IUCN Red List.

According to some recent estimates, there may be as many as 30,000 jaguars total across their range in South America and Central America, with between 3,000 and 4,000 in Mexico.

Populations thin out toward the northern end of the range, with populations in the Mexican states of Colima and Jalisco north through Nayarit, Sinaloa, southwestern Chihuahua, and Sonora to the border with the U.S.

Conservation advocates said the critical habitat designation could help restore native jaguar populations to southern Arizona and New Mexico. Continue reading

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