Tuesday, January 12, 2010
U.S. environmental regulators decide to protect jaguar
U.S. residents got another example of the kind of change they voted for in 2008 when the Obama administration announced Tuesday that it would protect the habitat of the jaguar, even though the last of the big cats in the United States is believed to have died last year. Tuesday's announcement by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service settles, at least for now, a long-running dispute over the jaguar's status as an endangered species, according to the New York Times. The jaguar has been listed as endangered since 1997, but regulators never designated any critical habitat for the wide-ranging animals, which were formerly believed to have ranged from Louisiana to California, the Times said. Wildlife activists sued to force the government to come up with a species-recovery plan, as required by the Endangered Species Act and a federal judge in Tucson ordered regulators to draft such plans or explain why not. This time, the Fish and Wildlife Service dropped longstanding opposition to such planning and agreed to comply despite fierce opposition from ranchers, who long opposed protecting the habitat of such wide-ranging predators, the Times said. The designation will protect the jaguar if it returns to the western United States. There are 5,000 jaguars in Mexico and thousands more in Central and South America. Conservationists applauded the decision as historic. "It will reorient land conservation in the Southwest," said Michael Robinson of the Center on Biological Diversity of Tuscon, the nonprofit group that sued. "We will see planning to ensure jaguars can reach each other." Robinson said the new designation could affect decisions to allow tree harvesting or mining on public lands within the jaguar habitat, the Times said.