Arizona Game and Fish response to USFWS jaguar decision

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Here’s the official take from AZ Game and Fish. I can’t help but see it as some pretty profound rationalization but you can decide for yourself.

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On January 17, 2008, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) issued a News Release on its decision that a U.S. recovery plan for the jaguar would not advance

conservation of the species. For details, please see the USFWS news release included below [I didn’t include for ease of formatting- Bill], although due to the mysteries of word processing the appearance below differs slightly from the “original.”

After reading the USFWS decision, Arizona Game and Fish Department Director Duane Shroufe remarked, “I applaud Director Dale Hall and his staff on this decision. It appropriately emphasizes the importance of focusing recovery planning for peripheral species in those areas where they can best be recovered. It also underscores the limited, but important, extent to which Arizona and New Mexico can continue contributing to jaguar conservation in the U.S.-Mexico borderlands. We look forward to continuing our work with the Service and our other partners, governmental and nongovernmental, in the United States and elsewhere on both counts.”

As Director Shroufe implied, the USFWS decision will not hinder the state-led AZ-NM Jaguar Conservation Team (JAGCT), which will continue to focus on jaguar conservation in the U.S.-Mexico borderlands. Although the JAGCT primarily addresses Arizona and New Mexico, its activities also include cooperation at several levels with Mexico on conservation planning for the northern-most jaguar population, which is centered roughly 140 miles south of the U.S. border with Mexico. JAGCT counterparts in Mexico are on the verge of completing a conservation strategy for the northern jaguar population that will complement the JAGCT’s conservation framework, which was initially developed in 1997 and was extensively revised in 2007.

The jaguars documented in Arizona and New Mexico since rancher Warner Glenn and houndsman Jack Childs rediscovered the species’ presence in 1996 and confirmed it with cameras rather than specimens, are almost certainly part of the northern Mexico population. Four different animals, all males, have been confirmed in the two states since 1996. Thanks to the JAGCT’s Borderlands Detection Project, ably guided by Jack Childs and Emil McCain, with assistance from a host of volunteers and meager funding (when funded at all) from cooperating agencies and other organizations, one of the four jaguars has been photo-documented in Arizona over a period of more than 12 years, with seasonally continuous presence several times.

The JAGCT’s next meeting is on March 13, 2008, in Lordsburg, New Mexico. JAGCT meetings are open to the public, and details of the March meeting will be included in a mid-February Endangered Species Update (also see Additional Information, below).

The jaguar recovery planning story is not quite over, however. A citizen lawsuit is still pending to force USFWS to develop a recovery plan for the United States. It remains to be seen how the court will act on the litigation, given the recent federal determination. Regardless of the final outcome in court, though the USFWS has certainly not abandoned jaguar conservation in the United States or elsewhere, nor is the recovery plan decision “a jaguar death sentence,” as some have already claimed. The USFWS has simply made a formal decision that available conservation resources, which are always in short supply, can be spent in better ways than developing a recovery plan for an area at the very edge of the species’ range that has long been occupied by jaguars but not, according to the best available scientific evidence, by a self-sustaining resident population. Thus, the JAGCT will continue to be a crucial part of the ongoing borderlands conservation effort for one of the United State’s most magnificent animals, the jaguar, which is the largest native cat and only native roaring cat in the Western Hemisphere.

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