The Canada Lynx Needs Your Help!
In March 2000 the Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) listed Canada lynx in the contiguous United States as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). It was a triumphant achievement in spite of nearly a decade long battle to implement what undeniable evidence had long noted lynx across their range were in deep trouble (for detailed review and natural history of the lynx, see HUPC LYNX, 4/00, 12/98, Special Alert 9/98).
Lynx canadensis, Canada lynx, is a true holdout. In much of its northern forest habitat, the lynx is now a ghost -- its wild whisper barely roams the deepest shadows of the wildest mountains in Utah, the High Uintas.
Similar to a bobcat, but slightly larger (the general range of lynx is 20-25 pounds), with sharply tufted ears, a black-tipped tail, long hind legs and large-furred paws, the lynx is a true forest dwelling cat. Its paws allow the lynx to survive in high mountains and northern latitudes covered by deep snows for significant periods of the year.
In northern boreal forests of Alaska, Canada and parts of Montana, the lynx feeds primarily on snowshoe hares and often exhibits a deeply cyclic population rhythm. Moving further south into the Cascades, much of the Northern Rockies and here in the central/Southern Rockies, lynx habitat is crucially important but often referred to as suboptimal simply because snowshoe hares are not as common. Here the lynx survives on numerous other small mammals and even some birds. It exhibits a more complex interaction with a prey base, thus its densities remain inherently low.
Lynx are deep forest dwellers, inhabiting old growth forests where downed logs and windfall provide cover, thermal protection, denning sites and protection from the ever-threatening cougar and other large predators. A wide extent of forest conditions ranging from early to mid-successional forests harbor snowshoe hares so important for lynx. Other small mammals upon which lynx prey here in the spruce/fir forests and upper lodgepole pine forests of Utah and the West also depend upon old growth forests.
Lynx are typically wide ranging predators. Just how wide ranging is one of the reasons that the lynx is now listed as a threatened species. Lynx in the contiguous United States are part of a large metapopulation with the core populations in Canada. Significant questions as to how lynx populations are maintained in the patchy spruce/fir forests of the western United States were largely answered in a 2002 January article in Nature. They are remarkably wide ranging dispersers. Using genetic markers in DNA, scientists learned that lynx throughout their North American range interbreed widely with populations sometimes thousands of kilometers away. Distinct and seemingly disjunct populations far from the Canadian boreal forests are periodically enhanced by lynx from the Canadian boreal forests. It is abundantly clear that habitat fragmentation is a crucial issue. Lynx must be able to move.
It is imperative Forest Service planners bring forth uniform standards to protect wild areas and make sure those high elevation wild areas are connected so that lynx populations can survive and assure persistence of the species across its native homeland. Logging, road building, trapping, and snowmobiling all play a role in anthropogenic fragmentation of already naturally fragmented habitats. These are the issues that must be dealt with to assure Canada lynx, a Utah native, will be able to continue to call the Uintas home.
After the lynx was listed as a threatened species, biologists from the Forest Service and other agencies joined together to develop a strategy to implement and assure lynx were properly protected. The Lynx Conservation Assessment and Strategy (LCAS) was prepared. To implement this strategy a Northern Rockies Lynx Amendment Draft Environmental Impact (DEIS) Statement was prepared.
However, with profound irony that we see from this administration and Forest Service, the DEIS proposes to weaken lynx protections, ignoring the biologist recommendations in the LCAS on the National Forests in Washington, Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, and Utah (Ashley National Forest). They plan to maintain the status quo for grazing, road use, mineral development, and snowmobile use, even though the LCAS notes these are the primary reasons which fragment lynx habitat and resulted in the threatened status of the lynx.
Lend your wild voice to assure lynx habitat is properly managed!
Your wild voice is needed again! Comments are due on 15 April:
F.S. Region I