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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Revised Canada Lynx Habitat Plan Released

Timber sales and elimination of habitat protections threaten lynx recovery in Washington

The Fish and Wildlife Service today released a revised habitat plan for Canada lynx after a federal judge determined that its earlier version was tainted due to political meddling. Conservation groups express concern that the revised proposal will not allow for lynx recovery by protecting its habitat.

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Bellingham, WA Feb 28, 2008

The Fish and Wildlife Service today released a revised habitat plan for Canada lynx after a federal judge determined that its earlier version was tainted due to political meddling. The Canada lynx is the rarest of the three wild cat species in Washington. Outside Alaska, lynx populations in the United States have been reduced to a few remaining strongholds in the Rocky Mountains, northern Minnesota, Maine, and Washington.

The Canada lynx critical habitat designation is one of eight decisions that the agency decided to review after determining that they had been improperly influenced by former Interior Department deputy assistant secretary Julie MacDonald. MacDonald, a political appointee who oversaw the FWS, resigned after the release of a critical report by the inspector general of Department of the Interior, which stated that she had “bullied, insulted, and harassed the professional staff … to change documents and alter biological reporting.”

Conservation groups are still concerned that the revised proposal will not allow for lynx recovery by protecting its habitat. 

“Washington State is home to one of the last and largest lynx populations left in the United States,” said Dave Werntz, science director for Conservation Northwest. “We have a responsibility to ensure that this magnificent animal continues to thrive and contribute to lynx recovery across the Pacific Northwest.”

In September, 2005, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service published a preliminary lynx recovery assessment that identified habitat in Washington needed to maintain and restore lynx populations over the long run. The Service identified core areas for lynx in the northern Cascades, Kettle River Range, the Selkirks, and southern Cascades that contribute to lynx recovery. All of these areas, except the northern Cascades, were excluded in the today’s critical habitat designation.

“After identifying lands needed for recovery, the Fish and Wildlife Service inexplicably excluded several regions where lynx currently live and areas that are essential to long-term lynx survival, such as the Kettle River Range in northeast Washington,” said Werntz. “For the Bush administration, this may be business as usual, but to biologists, this is a perfect recipe for the extinction of lynx.”

In the meantime, in north-central Washington State, there are two timber sales that would destroy lynx habitat, further endangering an animal whose existence is already gravely threatened.

The first is the Branch Sorts timber sale in the Loomis State Forest, located in the North Fork Toats Drainage and within proposed critical habitat -- one of the few area drainages that has not been impacted by fire in the last two decades and it contains prime hunting and breeding grounds for this wild cat. The area includes quality lynx habitat and is one of the last intact lynx habitats in the Loomis State Forest. It is currently being considered for logging. 

The second is Mutton Integrated Resource Project on the Okanogan National Forest, where biologists have recently documented lynx activity. Prominent lynx biologists are concerned that logging these units would be harmful to lynx.

“The fact that Washington is a last refuge for lynx is a source of pride for the people of our region,” said Werntz. “Our state and federal governments should not be planning timber sales in rare and remote lynx habitat, they should instead focus on thinning areas near communities to reduce the threat of catastrophic wildfire.”

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