Court Acts Swiftly to Aid Rare Canada Lynx

The following is a press release from The Western Environmental Law Center.

Wildlife advocates’ win forces federal government to prepare long overdue recovery plan for threatened Canada Lynx.

Missoula, MT – In a critical win for the rare and elusive Canada lynx, a federal court in Montana found that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s 14-year delay in preparing a recovery plan for this threatened species was “unreasonable” and ordered a firm deadline for completing the federally mandated roadmap for recovery.

A coalition of wildlife advocates, represented by the Western Environmental Law Center, filed a lawsuit in March 2013 to spur the FWS to complete the required recovery plan for the cat, which was listed as threatened with extinction under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in March 2000. By the FWS’ own admission, recovery plans are “one of the most important tools to ensure sound scientific and logistical decision-making throughout the recovery process.”

Yesterday, the Court ruled in the wildlife advocates favor, finding that “The history of this case causes a certain skepticism about the agency’s self declared deadlines for initiating recovery planning.” The agency has 30 days to submit a proposed schedule for completion of the recovery plan.

“It’s long overdue,” said Matthew Bishop, an attorney with the Western Environmental Law Center who represents the coalition. “A delay of a year, two or even three might be reasonable given other priorities or a heavy workload, but not 14. At some point in time, the court has to step in and say enough is enough. Fortunately, that’s what they did in this case,” Bishop added.

“We are pleased that the court recognized how important these plans are to prevent the extinction of lynx,” said Arlene Montgomery, Program Director for Friends of the Wild Swan. “Finally the Fish and Wildlife Service can get down to identifying and reducing threats to the cats’ long term survival.”

The Western Environmental Law Center is representing Friends of the Wild Swan, Rocky Mountain Wild, San Juan Citizens Alliance, and the Biodiversity Conservation Alliance.

The Court’s decision can be found here:


  1. Yvette Avatar

    A great win! Thank goodness for this coalition of advocates.

  2. Ida Lupines Avatar
    Ida Lupines

    Good news!

  3. Barb Rupers Avatar
    Barb Rupers

    Thanks to Judge Molloy.

  4. alf Avatar

    Long, long overdue, needless to say !

    Now, how about some action on wolverines ??

    I almost hate to say it, but I believe the FWS, as an institution, is every bit as political, negligent, and incompetent as the BLM and Forest Service.

    1. Wolfy Avatar

      I second that! They are just as broke as the congress that runs rough shod over them.

  5. John Meyer Avatar
    John Meyer

    How are we going to recover a species that has evolved to be in deep snow?

    While climate change was not an original reason for listing, my guess is that it is going to hammer lynx in the future. Less snow means other carnivores (bobcats, coyotes, mountain lions) can access new areas that were once niche habitat for lynx. That will increase competition for food (snowshoe hares make up 95% of lynx diet) and also open lynx up to predation by other predators.

    It will be interesting to see what the recovery plan says.

    1. Ida Lupines Avatar
      Ida Lupines

      Maybe not…it’s hard to know exactly what the future will bring – it could bring more snow in certain areas. We could get hammered with snowstorms and cold weather like we did again this year; in fact, it’s still snowing in the Rockies:

      Mother (Nature’s) Day Brings Snow to Colorado and Wyoming

      1. John Meyer Avatar
        John Meyer

        From the 2013 Proposed Critical Habitat rule (pages 59-62):

        “An analysis of potential snow
        cover under a range of IPCC future climate scenarios and modeling of vegetation using a dynamic vegetation model indicates that potential lynx habitat could decrease by as much as two-thirds in the contiguous United States by the end of this century (Gonzalez et al. 2007, pp. 4, 7-8, 10, 13-14).

        “Climate change is expected to
        substantially reduce the amount and quality of lynx habitat in the contiguous United States, with patches of high-quality habitat becoming smaller, more fragmented, and more isolated (Carroll 2007, pp. 1099-1100; Johnston et al. 2012, p. 11). Remaining lynx
        populations would likely be smaller than at present and, because of small population size and increased isolation, populations would likely be more vulnerable to stochastic environmental and demographic events (Carroll 2007, pp. 1100-1103).”

        1. Ida Lupines Avatar
          Ida Lupines

          ‘Expected to’.

          1. Ida Lupines Avatar
            Ida Lupines

            Chris Hoving suggests a forest of diverse habitats, those in different stages of succession, and in blocks large enough for area-sensitive species, will provide the greatest benefit to all forms of wildlife. While many conservationists focus on protecting large blocks of mature forest, many species, including Canada lynx, need large blocks of young forest as well.

            “Managed forests respond less severely to climate change than unmanaged,” said Hoving. “Through management, we can reduce the forest’s rate of change and soften the blow of climate change to a variety of species.”


            There’s a lot we can do besides pointing the finger elsewhere at ‘climate change’ to ensure that the impact upon wildlife is reduced. The President in his speeches says we are going to have to make sacrifices, and I hope he isn’t talking about wildlife making the sacrifices so that we can continue to waste. The future is uncertain, but we can conserve, and use less energy today.

            1. John Meyer Avatar
              John Meyer

              The link you offered is from the East Coast. The bulk of lynx habitat out there is on private land. In contrast, the most important land for lynx out West is federal, where the species has been heavily impacted by federal management. One Forest Service researcher has expressed concerns over the level of management in western Montana:

              “[T]here is likely a threshold of thinning below which lynx will not be able to persist. The extent of forest thinning and forest fragmentation around Seeley in the last five years is of concern for lynx in western Montana.”

              2009 Letter from John Squires.

              I agree that we should consume less energy. The government also needs to reject Keystone XL and step up its climate change game if it is serious about protecting humans or lynx.

              1. Ida Lupines Avatar
                Ida Lupines

                I agree. It’s nothing but talk now, and a convenient excuse I think.

              2. Elk375 Avatar

                “[T]here is likely a threshold of thinning below which lynx will not be able to persist. The extent of forest thinning and forest fragmentation around Seeley in the last five years is of concern for lynx in western Montana.”

                A large majority of the land around Seeley Lake is or did belong to Plum Creek. I know there was several large purchases of timberland in the last 5 years. Timber companies every stick or merchantable timber.

              3. John Meyer Avatar
                John Meyer


                There is at least one current Forest Service timber sale (Colt Summit)in occupied critical habitat in the Seeley Lake area.

            2. Logan Avatar

              Climates on this planet have always been in a state of change, the climate has never been constant and animals adapt or go extinct. The amount of change that can or will happen is so unpredictable that I think our best course of action to help Lynx and other species is to just go forward with protections and recovery plans.

              1. Ida Lupines Avatar
                Ida Lupines

                That’s true also – it’s hard to know what’s climate change and what’s the natural cycle. Lyn McCormack was talking about the ‘human memory’ of climate being only 100 years or so. I was surprised because my husband was talking about the very same thing a day or two before! I couldn’t find her post.

  6. Mike Avatar

    Great news.


Ken Cole is a 5th generation Idahoan, an avid fly fisherman, wildlife enthusiast, and photographer. He is the interim Idaho Director for Western Watersheds Project.

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