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The case for lynx in the Kettles

Dec 12, 2013

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

Protecting lynx in the Kettle Range is essential to conservation of the species, one of 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 December 26. 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.

Through Dec. 26, the USFWS accepted public comment on lynx critical habitat. We submitted 500 supporter's letters. Thanks!

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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