FWS designates revised critical habitat for Canada lynx to correct prior scientific abuses
74 Fed. Reg. 8616 / Vol. 74, No. 36 / Wednesday, February 25, 2009 / Rules and Regulations / DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR Fish and Wildlife Service /
50 CFR Part 17 / Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Revised Designation of Critical Habitat for the Contiguous United States Distinct Population Segment of the Canada Lynx
SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), designate revised critical habitat for the contiguous United States distinct population segment of the Canada lynx (Lynx canadensis) (lynx) under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act). In total, approximately 39,000 square miles (mi2) (101,010 square kilometers (km2)) fall within the boundaries of the revised critical habitat designation, in five units in the States of Maine, Minnesota, Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, and Washington.
New information suggests that climate change may be an issue of concern for the future conservation of lynx because lynx distribution and habitat is likely to shift upward in elevation within its currently occupied range as temperatures increase. Caption from FWS Federal Register Notice, photo from FWS Mountain-Prairie Region
EXCERPT RE: HISTORY: On July 20, 2007, FWS announced that we would review the November 9, 2006, final critical habitat rule after questions were raised about the integrity of scientific information used and whether the decision made was consistent with the appropriate legal standards. Based on our review of the previous final critical habitat designation, we determined that the critical habitat designation was improperly influenced by then deputy assistant secretary of the Interior Julie MacDonald and, as a result, may not be supported by the record, may not be adequately explained, or may not comport with the best available scientific and commercial information.
EXCERPTS: Because of the patchiness and temporal nature of high-quality snowshoe hare habitat, lynx populations require large boreal forest landscapes to ensure that sufficient high quality snowshoe hare habitat is available... The formal rule designating critical habitat, 50 CFR 17.95, states that the primary constitutent elements include “boreal forest landscapes supporting a mosaic of differing successional forest stages” and “Presence of snowshoe hares and their preferred habitat conditions, which include dense understories of young trees, shrubs or overhanging boughs that protrude above the snow, and mature multistoried stands with conifer boughs touching the snow surface…”
KEITHINKING: The revised rule includes a very substantial discussion of the areas included, and previous excluded, from the critical habitat designation. The New York Times reports that the rule “marks a twentyfold expansion over a Bush-era designation tainted by political meddling.” See also, The Missoulian.