By Ann McCreary
The Western Environmental Law Center (WELC) filed suit Monday (Nov. 17) against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) in federal court under the Endangered Species Act for inadequately protecting Canada lynx habitat in Washington and other parts of the nation.
The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Montana on behalf of Conservation Northwest, WildEarth Guardians, Cascadia Wildlands and Oregon Wild.
In September, FWS announced a two-part decision expanding the protection of individual cats to wherever they are found in the lower 48 states, not just in select states. However, at the same time, the agency excluded large swaths of lynx range from critical habitat designation, according to a news release from Cascadia Wildlands.
Despite mounting evidence that lynx habitat is more expansive than previously thought, FWS announced it will exclude all occupied lynx habitat in the Southern Rockies, and important lynx habitat in parts of Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, and other states in the species’ historic, current, and available range, the Cascadia Wildlands’ release said.
“By excluding these areas, the Service is failing its obligation to ensure that lynx can recover across the American west,” said John Mellgren, staff attorney at WELC.
In Washington, the lynx’s range includes the North Cascades and Loomis Forest going east to the Columbia Highlands and Selkirk Mountains.
Although lynx habitat is under threat throughout the contiguous states, FWS’s new designation excluded much of the cat’s last best habitat in Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Oregon from protection, and failed to protect vast tracts in Maine, Montana, Idaho, Washington, and Wyoming.