Giant victory for jags/ESA

A federal judge has ruled that the Bush administration’s “creative” method of ignoring jaguar recovery is contrary to the legal requirements of the Endangered Species Act and has ordered a recovery plan and a new decision on critical habitat by next January 8th. Regardless of how you feel about critical habitat, I think this is a good ruling for the integrity of the ESA. If the USFWS can ignore recovery plans for species that are too inconvenient or controversial, according to the political winds that blow from DC then what good is the Act? This was the thin edge of the wedge seeking to undermine the ESA. Large carnivores are probably the toughest aninmals on Earth to manage- they need vast amounts of land to wander, they sometimes eat livestock and they  can scare some people. I also think that the trick now will be to avoid a ranchers vs environmentalists schism among jag lovers. The forces of “development”, extraction and pavement would love nothing more than seeing a nasty fight between these two factions.If you doubt there’s not a large anti-conservation feeling in this country check out the comment sections on some jaguar articles. It’s full of blazing insights like, “these cats are not native, they are from Central and South America” , “any jaguar can leap any fence they put up at the border” and “they probably found some blue jeans and sneaker pieces in Macho B’s stomach.” People who think like that will not miss the presence of apex predators; they will look no further than their own comfort. It’s up to us to forge a plan that all concerned can live with.  So, let’s look to compromise- if both ends will give a bit we can come up with something we can all get behind. I don’t for a minute believe that people who love jaguars, wild lands and wild places are incapable of working together, regardless of what they feel about things like Macho B’s death, “science” vs “emotion”, etc., etc. A refocusing upon the goal of jaguars thriving in the US is needed, IMHO. Forget finger-pointing, fundraising, bruised egos and strident emails. If Macho B left a few cubs behind as a surprise let’s give them the protection, space and prey base they deserve. Viva El Tigre!

Ok, here’s a link to CBD’s press release and the AZ Star article is below:

Judge orders fed to prepare recovery plan for endangered jaguar

By Tony Davis
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.

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