By Tony Davis
Arizona Daily Star
Tucson, Arizona – Published: 03.31.2009
A federal judge overruled an agency’s decision today that had stopped preparation of a recovery plan and designation of prime protected habitat for the endangered jaguar in the Southwest.
District Judge John Roll’s ruling essentially said that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had failed to prove its case that the jaguar is primarily a foreign species and that there is no important habitat for it in Arizona and New Mexico. Roll ordered the service to return on January 8 of next year with a new decision on critical habitat and a recovery plan.
The ruling is a big victory for the Center for Biological Diversity, which had filed suit challenging service decisions on both issues, and the Defenders of Wildlife, that had sued against the recovery plan decision only.
“The Bush Administration decision to deny a jaguar recovery plan and critical habitat was not based on science, is what the judge found,” said Michael Robinson, an activist for the Center for Biological Diversity. “The court confirmed what we’ve known all along: the jaguar needs a home in the United States and a lifeboat– a recovery plan and critical habitat.”
“The jaguar is an iconic species of our Southwest. The Fish and Wildlife Service was willing to basically write it off because there are so few jaguars left in this country,” said Brian Segee, an attorney with Defenders of Wildlife. “The United States is the jaguar’s home, and we should take the actions necessary for it to recover here. We are thrilled with the court’s decision and hope the Fish and Wildlife Service will now move quickly to initiate recovery planning and provide the jaguar with the full Endangered Species Act protections.”
As of late this morning, the service had not yet commented on the decision. Under the law, it has a choice to appeal or comply with the court’s ruling to prepare a recovery plan and designate critical habitat.
Learn more about big cats and Big Cat Rescue at http://bigcatrescue.org