The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced yesterday that they have revised their proposed Critical Habitat designation for lynx, removing all lands in Maine from the designation.
Lynx are still listed as threatened under the Endangered Species act, but in removing Maine from the Critical Habitat designation, the US Fish and Wildlife Service is saying that the current management of these lands has created habitat that supports lynx, and that special management is not needed.
"I am pleased that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service revised their decision and has removed Maine from the Critical Habitat designation for lynx," said Roland D. Martin, Commissioner, Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. "Lynx are thriving in Maine. Maine's current landscape is highly beneficial to lynx, and forestry practices have created lynx habitat."
Critical Habitat is a term defined in the Endangered Species act as geographic areas that contain features essential for the conservation of a threatened or endangered species, and it may require special management considerations or protections. Earlier, the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service had proposed that nearly 10,000 square miles of Maine be listed as critical habitat.
"Our Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife has shown through their lynx research project that lynx are thriving in Maine under the current forest management practices," said Martin. "I am pleased that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service used the science presented to them by IFW in removing Maine from the critical habitat designation. This decision is beneficial for property owners in the area that would have been affected by the designation, and also for lynx since it will allow forest landowners to work in continued cooperation on lynx conservation."
Based upon cooperative research conducted by the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife in conjunction with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the University of Maine and others, the Department opposed the critical habitat designation. IFW began their current lynx research project in 1999. IFW trapped and collared lynx in the Clayton Lake area, and monitored habitat use, reproduction rates, mortality rates, lynx health and other factors through a radio telemetry study. Data garnered through the study was presented to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service during the public comment period for the Critical Habitat designation.
IFW's research project showed that lynx are thriving in habitat created through current forest management practices. Timber harvesting on private lands is the greatest single influence on lynx habitat in the Northeast. Studies showed that lynx preferred taller regenerating clearcuts that had been cut in the past 11-21 years.
Lynx are medium-sized cats, generally measuring 30-35 inches long and weighing 18-23 pounds. They have tufts on their ears, short, black-tipped tails, and large, well-furred feet and long legs for traversing snow. Lynx are highly specialized predators of snowshoe hare and are strongly associated with what is broadly described as boreal forest habitat. The Canada lynx was listed in 2000 as a threatened species under the ESA throughout its range in the contiguous United States. The lynx currently lives in boreal forests in five geographic regions: the Northeast, the Great Lakes, the Northern Rocky Mountains, the Southern Rocky Mountains, and the Cascade Mountains.