The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Michael Robinson, (575) 534-0360

Conservationists Propose 50-million-plus Acres as Jaguar Critical Habitat


The Center for Biological Diversity Monday proposed
designation of approximately 27 million acres in Arizona and 26
million acres in New Mexico as critical habitat for endangered jaguars. The Center suggested smaller areas in
Southern California and West Texas as critical habitat as well.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will consider the
science behind the Center's proposal and other comments before issuing a
proposed rule in January 2011 to designate jaguar critical habitat.

"This is a big swath of land to protect for an
endangered animal," said Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological
Diversity. "But jaguars roam over vast distances. They need their past
and future homes protected if the northern jaguar population and
eventually the species as a whole is to recover from the brink of
extinction and become secure."

The Center's critical habitat proposal within Arizona
and New Mexico is depicted in this map. The twin hearts of the proposal are the Sky
Island ecosystem of southeastern Arizona and southwestern New Mexico
and the Gila headwaters and Mogollon Rim ecosystems of west-central New
Mexico and east and central Arizona.

The Sky Islands is a region in which 27 mountain
"islands" in Arizona and New Mexico rise from a desert "ocean."
Multiple jaguars have been recorded in recent years in the Sky Islands.
One of them was the much-celebrated and now mourned "Macho B," a
jaguar photographed in the United States from 1996 until he was
euthanized after being snared by the Arizona Game and Fish Department
last March.

The Gila headwaters and Mogollon Rim areas may have
supported breeding jaguars until the 1960s; the Fish and Wildlife
Service shot the last-known female jaguar in the United States in this
area in 1963. This mountainous region contains millions of roadless
acres that are not separated by desert valleys.

The Center's comments and map are based on a detailed
review of several different models and maps assessing potential jaguar
habitat in Arizona and New Mexico.

"The return of jaguars to their ancient habitats in the
Southwest will help restore the balance of nature," said Robinson. "Our
ecosystems and other wildlife that evolved with jaguars can benefit
from their homecoming, and in turn these big spotted cats need U.S.
habitats to ensure their survival and recovery."

Critical habitat, under the Endangered Species Act, is
the area necessary for the recovery of endangered species - by
definition a swath of land or water that supports more individuals of a
species than if it were just intended to stabilize species on the
brink of extinction.

The conservation effectiveness of critical habitat stems
from the legal prohibition on the federal government destroying or
harming critical habitat, either through its own actions (i.e. issuing
timber sales or building a dam) or through its permitting
responsibilities. Not surprisingly, endangered species with critical
habitat have been found to be twice as likely as those without critical
habitat to be trending toward recovery.

Jaguars were first placed on the endangered species list
in the United States in 1997 as a result of Center for Biological
Diversity advocacy; a court ruling last year in favor of the Center
resulted in the Fish and Wildlife Service's recent decision to
designate critical habitat and develop a jaguar recovery plan.

At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature — to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters and climate that species need to survive.

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