Legal wrangling over lynx continues in Rockies

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By Bob Berwyn
summit daily news
Summit County, CO Colorado
Special to the Daily
 
Lynx are powder-loving wildcats closely related to bobcats. They once thrived in Colorado’s alpine zones, but were hunted and trapped to near extinction in the late 1800s.
 
Before state biologists started re-establishing a lynx population with cats transplanted from Canada and Alaska in 1999, the last confirmed lynx sighting in the state was near Vail in the 1970s.
 
Although the specialized predators had become exceedingly rare, the federal government refused to put the cats on the endangered species list until legal action by conservation groups forced the listing.
 
Conservation groups petitioned for a listing in 1994. In 1997, a federal judge ruled that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service unlawfully had refused to propose listing the lynx under the ESA.
 
The judge ruled that the federal government “relied on glaringly faulty factual premises, and ignored the views of its own experts” in refusing to consider the lynx for listing.
 
The agency finally complied, listing lynx as threatened in 2000. The lack of an adequate regulatory mechanism to protect lynx on national-forest land was cited as one of the primary threats. The new rule released this week is intended to address that question mark.
 
Conservation groups continue to accuse federal agencies of foot-dragging, for example by its hesitation to declare critical habitat for lynx. It required another lawsuit by conservation groups, and another stern rebuke from a federal judge, before the wildlife service released a critical-habitat proposal. Colorado wasn’t included in the critical-habitat proposal, a decision that could lead to yet another lawsuit.
 
The agency left Colorado out of the critical-habitat equation based on the claim that the state’s lynx are not crucial to overall survival of the species across its North American range.
 
Conservation groups say that’s nonsense, and that Colorado of all places, with a population of several hundred transplanted lynx, needs a critical-habitat designation.
 
The Endangered Species Act obligates the federal government not only to protect listed species, but to actively seek recovery, making sure populations of threatened plants and animals can persist across their historic habitat.
 
Lynx conservation
 
The new Southern Rockies Forest Service rule, in the form of a regional forest plan amendment, and other documents  related to lynx conservation are available on the web at: http://www.fs.fed.us/r2/projects/lynx.
 
Questions regarding the lynx rule should be directed to Nancy Warren at (303) 275-5064.
 
Learn more about big cats and Big Cat Rescue at http://bigcatrescue.org
 

Colorado: New lynx plan changes logging rules

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By Bob Berwyn
summit daily news
Summit County, CO Colorado

SUMMIT COUNTY — Loggers will face tighter restrictions on clear-cutting and thinning as the U.S. Forest Service implements a new rule to protect threatened lynx.

 
“It changes the mindset within the Forest Service on how they do vegetation management,” said Kurt Broderdorp, a federal biologist responsible for making sure lynx can thrive in Colorado and the rest of the southern Rockies.
 
The new rule is part of a sweeping amendment to forest plans for the region, released by the Forest Service last week after eight years of preparation.
 
It’s subject to a 45-day appeal period, and conservation groups may challenge the agency based on what they say are significant loopholes in the conservation plan.  In initial reviews, conservation advocates said the rule is an improvement from an earlier draft, especially with regard to timber management.
 
But the latest version waters down some protections for lynx by whittling away strict forest-plan standards — considered mandatory rules for forest managers — and replacing them with guidelines, which don’t have quite the same regulatory clout.
 
The same conservation groups that initially forced the federal government to list lynx as threatened will carefully scrutinize the latest Forest Service plan and potentially challenge the draft rule if they believe it’s lacking, said Dave Gaillard, of the Predator Conservation
Alliance.
 
“We’d like to see something more over-arching,” said Page Bonaker, a staff biologist with the Center for Native Ecosystems, calling on the federal government to add parts of Colorado to the areas deemed critical habitat for lynx.
 
Timber versus habitat
 
Throughout its history, the Forest Service generally has based its planning on how to get the most commercial value from forests.
 
Now, the agency must temper that desire to maximize timber yield with the need to make sure there is adequate cover for lynx and enough food for snowshoe hares, the cats’ main prey.
 
As it considers logging projects, the Forest Service will have to make sure that a certain amount of tree cover is maintained for lynx and snowshoe hares, with strict caps on clear-cutting and thinning.
 
“You can’t just think about this (the forest) as a crop. It’s wildlife habitat,” said Broderdorp, who works for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Grand Junction. “You have to think about that, as opposed to just trying to grow bigger or better trees.”
 
There are exceptions for projects aimed at reducing the wildfire danger near homes, said Forest Service biologist Nancy Warren.
 
But in other areas, the agency will have to leave enough young stands of lodgepole pines and other trees to provide food and cover for snowshoe hares.
 
Thinning of dense stands also will have to be delayed until the lower branches are out of reach of snowshoe hares, which depend on the green branches for winter food, she said.
The Forest Service has recognized that large-scale vegetation management is the action most likely to affect the survival of lynx across broad landscapes, Warren said.  The rule also spells out limits on logging in higher-elevation spruce and fir stands.
 
“It’s become clear that multi-story spruce and fir stands are very important for lynx,” Warren said. As a result, the agency will conduct only “uneven-age stand management” in that forest type. That means there won’t be widespread logging, but selected removal of small groups of trees, taking care to maintain enough cover for lynx dens and daytime hiding places.
 
Other impacts
 
Ski areas and other winter recreation won’t be affected in a big way by the new rule, Broderdorp said.
 
“We’ve kind of pulled back with regard to recreation,” he said. Essentially, the federal agencies have decided that the existing impacts to lynx from skiing and snowmobiling don’t threaten the cats’ overall survival, he said.
 
There is less concern that a proliferation of compacted snow trails put lynx at a competitive disadvantage with coyotes and other predators.
 
“We’ve learned that competing predators are there year round,” Broderdorp said. The new regional rule still discourages creation of new winter trails unless they are concentrated in an area in an effort to leave other pockets of important habitat undisturbed, Warren said.
Other guidelines in the rule address nighttime grooming and night skiing, as well as other activities at resorts.
 
Those guidelines are “suggested practices” for the Forest Service, and aren’t as ironclad as mandated standards, Broderdorp explained. But the agency is still bound to recognize that the guidelines are important conservation measures.
 
“You better have a darn good reason to show why you’re deviating from the guidelines,” he said.
 
“There is still a recognition that there are areas where impacts are going to be significant,” Broderdorp said, referring to the concentrated use in forests around major resorts.
 
But the belief is those impacts are not going to threaten the existence of lynx across the cats’ broader range, he said.
 
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Learn more about big cats and Big Cat Rescue at http://bigcatrescue.org

Big Cat Carcass on Borneo road

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Thursday, November 6, 2008
Borneo Bulletin

Motorists often see roadkills during long journeys. However, Dayang Naziah Yusof came across an unusual roadkill on her way back home from Miri.

When she stopped her vehicle near the Sungai Tujoh control post, she was surprised to discover the carcass of what appeared to be a big cat , perhaps a rare leopard.

Assuming that the animal had been run over by a car, she moved the carcass to the side of the road so that other vehicles will not run over it.

After the discovery yesterday morning, she planned to call the Brunei Museums Department to notify them of the animal. She hopes that the animal’s body will be preserved.

Liza Mohd

http://www.brunei-online.com/bb/

India: Leopard killed in Nainital road mishap

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November 10th, 2008 – 3:23 pm ICT by ANI –
 
Nainital, Nov 10 (ANI): A three-year-old male leopard was killed in a road accident near Ramnagar forest area of Jim Corbett National Park on Sunday.
 
Wildlife officials said they found the dead leopard during regular patrolling.
 
Preliminary investigations reveal the leopard could have been hit by a speeding vehicle.
 
“There were blood stains and blood was coming out from its nose also,” said Prakash Chand, Range Officer, Ramnagar Forest Division.
 
“The blood samples have been taken and further investigations would be carried out,” he added.
 
Leopards are under threat from poachers and villagers.
 
With tiger population dwindling in recent years as a result of poaching, wildlife officials say hunters have increasingly set their sights on leopards.
 
Depletion of their habitat has also threatened leopards, forcing them to stray into human settlements.
 
India had about 7,300 leopards according to a 1997 census, but conservationists say the number is now likely to be much lower. (ANI)
 
 
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Learn more about big cats and Big Cat Rescue at http://bigcatrescue.org
 

India: PCCF orders to shoot down ‘man-eater leopard’

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10 Nov 2008, 0830 hrs IST, PTI
 
CHANDRAPUR: Finally, the Principal Conservator of Forests (PCCF) has ordered to shoot down the man-eater leopard of Vejgaon, it is reported.
 
The order to shoot down the leopard was received by fax by the Office of Conservator of Forests, South Chanda Forest Circle on Sunday morning. It may be recalled here that the leopard had killed two persons while injuring half a dozen of people from Vejgaon and nearby villages in Gondpipri tehsil of the district, since October, 2008.
 
The people of the area were gripped by panic and efforts by the Forest Department officials to curb the menace of the animal were not successful. With this, the villagers had taken the issue to the streets. Even the livestock and other animals were being attacked by the leopard.
 
Every effort to cage the beast was failed and eluded the shooters waiting with tranquillizing darts in the area. Hence, the local authorities had recommended for eliminating the beast by shooting it down.
 
When contacted CF Maheep Gupta, South Chanda Forest Circle, he confirmed the issuance of the orders to kill the leopard of Vejgaon by stating that the permission to this effect was “sought by us and B Majumdar, PCCF (wildlife), has issued the orders to kill the leopard.”
 
He also told that the order through fax to this effect reached his office on Sunday morning.
Accordingly, a couple of sharp shooters from the police department have been re requisitioned and are expected to reach the area of their assignment any time within next 24 hrs, he added.
 
It may be mentioned here that political leaders too were demanding the forest officials with a demand to shoot down the leopard so as to provide earliest any possible harm to the residents of the area. 
 
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Learn more about big cats and Big Cat Rescue at http://bigcatrescue.org
 

61 Iberian lynx born in Sierra Morena in 2008

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La población del lince ibérico de Sierra Morena crece con 61 cachorros en 2008
Se iguala la cifra alcanzada en 2006, la mejor temporada reproductora en la zona
 
EFE , Jaén | 10/11/2008
 
EFE La consejera de Medio Ambiente, Cinta Castillo, informó la semana pasada del nacimiento en libertad de al menos 61 cachorros de lince ibérico durante este año en Sierra Morena, con lo que se iguala a la población de 2006 como la mejor temporada reproductora de la historia reciente registrada en la zona.
 
Castillo, que inauguró las nuevas instalaciones del centro de cría La Olivilla de Jaén, resaltó el “éxito” obtenido por la administración en el marco del Proyecto Life para la conservación del lince.
 
Este complejo, ubicado en el Parque Natural de Despeñaperros, ha contado con una inversión de más de 1,2 millones de euros para construir doce nuevas jaulas de cría (de una superficie de 2.500 metros cuadrados cada una), proceder al cerramiento de las instalaciones de campeo y la adecuación completa de estas instalaciones, integradas en la red de centros de cría en cautividad de especies amenazadas.
 
Resultados esperanzadores
 
Las actuaciones han sido necesarias para seguir afrontando con garantías el Programa de cría en cautividad impulsado por la Junta de Andalucía, que ha superado las previsiones iniciales, con el nacimiento de 29 cachorros desde 2004, y ha obligado a acometer obras de ampliación, tanto en La Olivilla, como en El Acebuche (Huelva).
 
La apuesta realizada en favor del programa de cría, así como los resultados obtenidos son “muy esperanzadores” aunque, en palabras de Castillo, “el objetivo prioritario de la Junta de Andalucía es el mantenimiento de condiciones naturales para que los linces vivan y se reproduzcan en libertad”.
 
Este hecho ha motivado el trabajo por parte de Medio Ambiente para mejorar las condiciones de los hábitats en los que vive el lince, mediante una serie de medidas como la firma de 50 convenios con propietarios de fincas particulares en la zona de Sierra Morena y la mejora de la disponibilidad de alimento, asociada tanto a la recuperación del conejo silvestre, que es el principal sustento de este felino, y programas de alimentación suplementaria para casos extremos.
 
Otra suelta en Doñana
 
Esto ha permitido el restablecimiento de la especie hasta el punto de que la población de Sierra Morena, estimada provisionalmente este año en más de 170 ejemplares (incluyendo los cachorros), ha llegado a duplicarse respecto a 2002.
 
La Consejería ha conseguido el reforzamiento de ejemplares, ya que el éxito logrado con la suelta de Baya, un macho procedente de Sierra Morena, en los terrenos en los que se asienta la otra población andaluza, en Doñana, ha permitido obtener este año los primeros cachorros mixtos nacidos en libertad.
 
Castillo informó de que próximamente un ejemplar macho procedente de estas instalaciones seguirá los pasos de Baya y será liberado en Doñana para consolidar con su reproducción el refuerzo genético de esta población.
 
http://www.adn.es/ciencia/20081107/NWS-2237-recuperacion-poblacion-lince-Sierra-Morena.html
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Learn more about big cats and Big Cat Rescue at http://bigcatrescue.org