Today, the Natural Resources Council of Maine was among the twenty-one groups filing a sixty-day notice of intent-to-sue to force the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to protect Canada lynx and their habitat.
“Today, we have filed an intent-to-sue to compel the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to do their job and protect what’s left of Maine’s lynx population,” said Diano Circo, North Woods Policy Advocate for NRCM. “The fate of this elegant species is too important to leave up to corporate lobbyists.”
The agency (USFWS) once proposed including more than 10,000 square miles of the Maine woods in a “critical habitat zone” which would require separate review and stricter land use regulations. But after former deputy assistant secretary Julie MacDonald met with landowners, including Plum Creek, who claimed the regulation was unnecessary, the government elected not to designate Maine as critical habitat.
Plum Creek’s proposed 20,000-acre Moosehead Lake development is spread across high-value habitat for the threatened Canada lynx and would permanently degrade and destroy it.
McDonald has since been rebuked by the U.S. government for her negotiations with industry representatives, and for pressuring scientists to alter their findings about endangered species. As a result, H. Dale Hall, the current director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, is reconsidering the decision not to include Maine as critical habitat for the Canada lynx.
Hall said the agency plans to “make sure that the science is true” by revisiting the eight nationwide cases. “We wouldn’t be doing them if we didn’t at least suspect that the decision will be different. But I don’t want to predetermine outcome.”>/p>
Lynx once roamed through all of Maine except for the coast, but over the last century they have retreated from southern parts of the state. Because there are fewer lynx today and their habitat is dwindling, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service placed the Canada lynx on the list of threatened species in 2000, but they have thus far declined to list the species as “endangered.”
SELECTED EXCERPTS FROM THE LETTER OF INTENT-TO-SUE:
“This letter provides notice that we will take the necessary steps to compel FWS to lawfully designate critical habitat for the Canada lynx and list the species as endangered, and thus meet its mandatory duties under the ESA, as well as its duties under the APA.”
“Should FWS’s violations of the ESA and APA remain uncorrected, the parties to this notice intend to file suit, following the expiration of the statutory sixty-day notice period.”
“Despite the significant threats to the lynx’s continued existence, the Service refuses to take the steps mandated by the ESA to ensure that the species and its habitat are adequately protected.”
“Listing the lynx as “threatened” rather than “endangered,” however, impermissibly deprives the lynx of the full protection of the Act and significantly impedes the species’s recovery.”
“FWS has also resisted complying with the ESA’s mandate to designate “critical habitat” for the lynx sufficient to fulfill the Act’s fundamental goal that the species recover to the point where the protections of the Act are no longer necessary.”
“Indeed, it is clear that in crafting the critical habitat designation for the lynx, the Service, in particular through the actions of former Deputy Assistant Secretary Julie MacDonald, placed political considerations ahead of the biological needs of the lynx.”
“It has been apparent for over two decades that the loss and fragmentation of Canada lynx habitat are the primary threats to the species’s continued existence in the contiguous United States.”
“Throughout its range, direct and indirect impacts from logging, road building, fire suppression, recreation and other anthropogenic and natural pressures threaten the species’s continued existence.”