Colorado: US Forest Service’s Lynx plan challenged by enviros in court

Durango-based Colorado Wild, the Center for Native Ecosystems,
Defenders of Wildlife and WildEarth Guardians filed the appeal with
the Forest Service Monday. The final plan, released in November,
weakens standards and guidelines for logging, snow grooming for
recreation, road upgrades and gas and oil development, the groups
said. “If the amendment’s weaker standards and guidelines are applied
to areas in the Southern Rocky Mountains, lynx recovery may be delayed
or even thwarted altogether,” said Rocky Smith of Colorado Wild.

lynx population in the southern Rockies is small and vulnerable to
extinction, even with conservative management, Smith said. The
Colorado Division of Wildlife has released more than 200 lynx from
Canada and Alaska in the state since 1999 to restore the cat to
Colorado. At least 116 lynx kittens have been born in Colorado since
the restoration began. State wildlife biologists say no newborn
kittens have been found the last two years, possibly because of a
decline in the number of snowshoe hares, the cat’s main prey. The
long-haired cats, found mostly at high elevations, are listed by the
federal government as threatened in 14 states, including Colorado. The
Forest Service has said the plan’s intent is to manage vegetation to
support snowshoe hares. There would be exceptions for logging and
other activities in lynx habitat to reduce wildfire risk. The Forest
Service said the final version was modified to give forest managers
more flexibility in dealing with the bark-beetle infestation that has
killed more than 1.5 million acres of pine trees in Colorado. The U.S.
Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed designating 42,753 square miles
in six states as critical habitat for lynx, possibly placing the area
under tighter federal oversight. The states are Maine, Minnesota,
Idaho, Montana, Washington and Wyoming. Colorado, at the southern tip
of the cat’s historic territory, was left out of the proposal. Federal
officials have said it’s not clear if the Colorado population will
sustain itself. The agency originally designated only 1,841 square
miles in three states as critical lynx habitat but reconsidered after
allegations that Julie MacDonald, a deputy assistant secretary of the
interior, interfered in that and other decisions. She resigned.

Posted via email from Deane’s posterous

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