March 21, 2000--The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today listed Canada lynx in the contiguous United States as threatened under the Endangered Species Act while including a special regulation that allows for the take and export of lawfully obtained captive-bred lynx. A species is listed as threatened when it is likely to become endangered throughout all or a significant portion of its range in the foreseeable future. The lynx occurs predominantly on Federal lands, especially in the West. The Service concluded that the threat to the lynx in the contiguous United States is the lack of guidance to conserve the species in current Federal land management plans. The agency is working with other Federal agencies to conserve lynx habitat. The Forest Service has signed a Lynx Conservation Agreement that would affect all forest plans within lynx habitat. Additionally, the Bureau of Land Management and the National Park Service are also developing lynx conservation agreements. The Forest Service is also undertaking several analysis processes to amend their forest plans to incorporate direction designed to conserve the lynx. These actions will provide immediate benefits for lynx. "These proactive Forest Service conservation actions, though independent of our decision to list the lynx, will play a crucial role in our efforts to recover the lynx," said Ralph Morgenweck, regional director of the Fish and Wildlife Service’s Mountain-Prairie Region. "The goal of the Endangered Species Act is to recover species to levels where protection under the Act is no longer necessary. These forest management plans will serve as blueprints for recovery." The Service determined in 1997 that the lynx warranted listing under the Act but did not propose listing at that time because of other higher priority listing needs. The decision was challenged by several environmental organizations, and a subsequent settlement agreement led to the Service proposing the lynx as threatened in 1998. During the normal 12-month listing process and a rarely used six-month extension, the agency received and evaluated new information from States, Tribes, other Federal agencies, Canada, and the public. The Service also announced the availability of and received public comment on a newly completed Lynx Science Report prepared by a team of scientists led by the U.S. Forest Service. Today’s listing decision is the result of that review. The Canada lynx (Lynx canadensis), the only lynx in North America, is a rare forest-dwelling cat of northern latitudes. It feeds primarily on snowshoe hares but also will prey on small mammals and birds. Its range extends from Alaska, throughout much of Canada, to the boreal forests in the northeastern United States, the Great Lakes, the Rocky Mountains and the Cascade Mountains. The lynx is a medium-sized cat, similar to the bobcat, but appears somewhat larger. It has longer hind legs and very large well-furred paws, which make it highly adapted to hunting snowshoe hares in the deep snow typical throughout its range. It also has unique long tufts on the ears and a short, black-tipped tail. Within the contiguous United States, the lynx’s range extends into different regions that are separated from each other by ecological barriers consisting of unsuitable lynx habitat. These regions are the Northeast (Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, New York); the Great Lakes (Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan); the Northern Rocky Mountains/Cascades (Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, northwestern Wyoming, Utah); and the Southern Rocky Mountains (Colorado, southeastern Wyoming). Canada lynx in Alaska are not affected by today’s listing decision. The relative importance of each region to the survival and recovery of the species varies. The Northern Rockies/Cascades region supports the largest amount of lynx habitat and has the strongest evidence of long-term occurrence of resident lynx populations, both historically and currently. In the Northeast and Southern Rockies regions, the amount of lynx habitat is relatively limited and does not contribute substantially to the persistence of the contiguous U.S. lynx population. Much of the habitat in the Great Lakes region is marginal and may not support prey densities sufficient to sustain lynx populations. As such, the Great lakes region does not contribute substantially to the persistence of the contiguous U.S. lynx population. The Service concluded that the Northern Rockies/Cascades region is the primary region necessary to support the continued long-term existence of lynx in the contiguous United States. However, biologists will continue to examine the role that each region plays in the long-term conservation of lynx during recovery planning for the species. The Service concluded that lynx should be listed as one unit in the contiguous United States because, individually, none of the four geographical regions fulfill the Act’s criteria required for a Distinct Population Segment that could be listed independently of the others. The Service included a special 4(d) rule that will allow for take of lawfully obtained captive-bred lynx and for interstate transport and commerce in skins that are properly tagged with a valid export tag under the Convention for International Trade in Threatened and Endangered Species (CITES), which the Service administers in the United States A separate rule is being developed to address the take of lynx that may result incidentally from State and Tribal regulated hunting and trapping programs. This rule is in the review process and is expected to be published soon followed by a public comment period. For more information concerning the final listing decision, to be published March 24, 2000, visit the Service’s lynx web site at: http://www.r6.fws.gov/endspp/lynx.