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The case for lynx in the Kettles

Jul 15, 2014
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Protecting habitat for lynx in northeast Washington is essential to lynx conservation.

The case for lynx in the Kettles

The Kettle Range forms the habitat bridge between lynx in the North Cascades and Rocky Mountains. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

UPDATE, JULY 2014: The USFWS service recently reopened its comment period for lynx critical habitat designation. Click here to submit a comment supporting additional habitat designation and calling for it to include Washington's Kettle Range!

Protecting lynx in the Kettle Range is essential to conservation of this iconic species, one of only three wildcats native to Washington.

The US Fish and Wildlife Service is considering protecting habitat to support Canada lynx recovery, with a public comment deadline of July 21st, 2014. While well-known lynx habitat in the North Cascades is already slated for protection, Washington’s second largest tract of quality habitat in the Kettle Range may get left behind – again.

Canada lynx are rare and elusive wild cats that depend on large pristine tracts of boreal forest habitat with ample snowshoe hare and persistent deep snow. In Washington, lynx populations steeply declined due to trapping up until the 1980s and by habitat degradation.

Sample letter

Our last lynx action alert received over 500 letters calling for expanded critical habitat for lynx. Please submit a comment if you haven't done so already. Feel free to copy and paste the letter below!

Dear US Fish and Wildlife Service, 

I write to request federal habitat protections in northeast Washington for the Canada lynx DPS. The best scientific information supports the designation of lynx critical habitat in the Kettle Range and Wedge. This area contains the requisite habitat features as described in the proposed lynx Critical Habitat rule, the Service’s Recovery Outline, and Washington’s Lynx Recovery Plan. 

The Kettle Range is occupied by lynx. There is a long and continuous record of lynx presence in the Kettle Range and northeast Washington. The vast majority of lynx documented in Washington between 1961 and 1984 were in northeast Washington, mostly in the Kettle Range. When lynx were federally listed, one-third of the Kettle’s lynx management areas contained lynx. State biologists and others have documented 26 lynx records between 1990 and 2007 including a juvenile. Others lynx have been documented as recently as January 2013.

Northeast Washington contains quality habitat essential to lynx conservation. State lynx biologists have identified 765,000 acres (3,094 km2) of lynx habitat in northeast Washington. More than 310,000 acres (1250 km2) occur in the Kettle Range, Wedge and adjacent areas in Canada. Lynx primary prey species, snowshoe hare, occurs at high densities (0.6-3.6 hares/ha) across the Kettles. Scientists estimate the Kettles can support as many as two dozen lynx – a quarter of the state’s total lynx population.

It’s not just size but location. Situated between the North Cascades and Rocky Mountains, the Kettle Range is a key linkage in a string of lynx populations across western North America. According to scientists, lynx survival depends on maintaining the connected network of populations across Washington, and north into British Columbia. A metapopulation is only as strong as its weakest link. Protecting the Kettles is integral to conserving the North Cascades population and the broader lynx population across the west, especially in a world subject to changing climate.

Thank you for designating critical habitat for Canada lynx in the North Cascades of Washington and other locations. To complete the work and ensure the conservation of Canada lynx, please designate critical habitat in the Kettle Range and Wedge of northeast Washington, and consider protections in Washington’s Salmo Priest and Little Pend Oreille lynx management zones.  

Sincerely,

It’s not just size but location

The Kettle Range forms the habitat bridge between lynx in the North Cascades and Rocky Mountains. The Kettles are recognized by federal biologists as essential to lynx recovery in the contiguous United States. Washington’s lynx recovery strategy also relies on lynx in the Kettle Range and three other areas in northeast Washington.

Why the Kettles?

  • Canada lynx in the Kettles continue to persist through hard times. Although less abundant than historically, lynx and their tracks are routinely observed in the Kettle Range, including 26 records between 1990 and 2007. The Service can’t disregard its own biologists or these lynx reports.
  • The Kettle Range area contains substantial boreal forest habitat (>500 square miles), abundant prey (0.6-3.6 hares/ha), and deep, fluffy, and persistent snow could support two dozen lynx – an estimated one-quarter of the state’s population.
  • The Kettle Range is a key linkage in a string of lynx populations across western North America. Canada lynx survival depends on maintaining a connected network of populations across Washington and north into British Columbia

THANKS TO: Big thanks to Angel Drobnica for her excellent legal and scientific analysis in support of Canada lynx conservation in Washington.

Resources

Federal Lynx Recovery Outline
Washington Recovery Plan
Proposed Rule

Peer review.  The USFWS had biologists experienced in lynx conservation review the proposed critical habitat rule. These scientists both made a strong case for the Kettle Range being designated as critical habitat for lynx. Their comments are included, below (PDF)

Agency comments. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife also supported designating critical habitat in the Kettle Range in their comments to USFWS. WDFW does not consider the Kettle Range to be "unoccupied" and noted many knowledgeable sightings in the 17 years prior to the rule as well as the habitat and prey availability.

Habitat connectivity. Several well-respected scientific analyses strongly support the Kettle Range as central to connecting lynx habitat between the Cascades and the Rockies.

Source: Singleton, P.H., W.L. Gaines, and J.F. Lehmkuhl. 2002. Landscape permeability for large carnivores in Washington: a geographic information system weighted-distance and least-cost corridor assessment. USDA Forest Service, PNW-GTR-549.
Source: Washington Wildlife Habitat Connectivity Working Group (WHCWG). 2010. Washington Connected Landscapes Project: Statewide Analysis. Washington Departments of Fish and Wildlife, and Transportation, Olympia, WA.

 

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