Feds drop appeal on lynx habitat, will revise plan
BILLINGS, Mont. — Wildlife officials have dropped their appeal of a court ruling that forces the government to revise its flawed plan to protect critical habitat for Canada lynx.
The move means the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will have to reconsider areas in Colorado, Montana and Idaho for critical habitat designation. However, the agency has not set a deadline to complete the work, said litigation director Ann Carlson.
“We have quite a large workload in listing critical habitat in this region and we have to prioritize,” she said. “We are working on a timeline for accomplishing all of our work but it is still in preliminary stages.”
Lynx were deemed in threat of extinction across the lower 48 states a decade ago. Climate change, logging, ski area expansions and off-road vehicles are among potential threats to the elusive predators, which live in boreal forests with deep winter snows and abundant snowshoe hares.
Officials have struggled to come up with an acceptable habitat plan — a process marred by political meddling during the Bush administration that led to a 2006 plan being scrapped.
A second plan in 2009 designated 39,000 square miles in Maine, Minnesota, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho and Washington as critical habitat. But U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy last year faulted wildlife officials for excluding Colorado, where lynx are making a strong comeback, and some national forests in Montana and Idaho.