Court orders FWS to move on lynx recovery
by Cat Urbigkit, Pinedale Online!
May 12, 2014
A federal judge has determined that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's delay in developing and implementing a recovery plan for the Canada lynx is unreasonable.
Once a species is listed as threatened, FWS must designate critical habitat of that species, and develop and implement a recovery plan. Lynx were listed as a threatened species in 2000, and the court found that the agency's delay in preparing a recovery plan is unreasonable.
The court dismissed the FWS argument that the lynx is a low priority species because there is a high potential for recovery and a low degree of threat. FWS pointed out that it must balance the needs of lynx against that of 20 other species that also lack recovery plans but are of higher priority.
The court order stated: "However, the stutter-step approach taken by the Service raises the concern-even the certainty-that if a deadline is not in place, a new impediment will continually prevent the development of a recovery plan for the lynx in contravention of the Endangered Species Act. The Service cannot delay its statutory obligation indefinitely. At some point the agency needs to meet the obligations imposed by Congress when it enacted the law."
FWS had committed to begin recovery planning after publication of its final critical habitat rule (which has been plagued by litigation), but the court ruled that the agency can no longer delay.
The court concluded: "The history of this case causes a certain skepticism about the agency's self¬ declared deadlines for initiating recovery planning. Consequently, the Service will be bound by a deadline for recovery planning unless it finds and documents that such a plan will not promote the conservation of the lynx. Any additional delay will be considered in violation of this Order."
On May 8, 2014, U.S. District Court Judge Donald W. Molloy (Missoula, Montana) ordered FWS to file a proposed schedule for completion of recovery planning within 30 days. The court will then set the schedule for which FWS "must comply."