For Immediate Release, October 19, 2012
Contact: Michael Robinson, (575) 313-7017
Millions More Acres of Protected Jaguar Habitat Requested in New Mexico, Arizona
SILVER CITY, N.M.— In comments submitted to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today, the Center for Biological Diversity provided evidence that, to recover in the Southwest, jaguars will require millions more acres of protected habitat than the roughly 838,000 acres the agency proposed in August. The additional areas of “critical habitat” identified in the 55-page, science-based comment document include the Mogollon Rim of Arizona and New Mexico’s Gila National Forest. The federal agency must now consider these and other recommendations from the public and scientists before deciding on its final designation of protected habitat for jaguars.
”The best habitat for American jaguars lies in the vast and rugged Gila National Forest in New Mexico and adjoining pine forests in Arizona,” said Michael Robinson, the Center’s specialist on jaguars and wolves. “The Fish and Wildlife Service has a moral duty to protect these special places, where jaguars once lived and which they should be able to call home again. Recovering jaguars in this region, so full of wilderness, will bolster the genetic strength of the struggling jaguar population in northern Mexico, too, helping to ensure that these great cats will always share our country with us.”
The number of jaguars in northern Sonora, Mexico was last estimated at 271 animals, in a population that may be increasingly isolated from other jaguars in Mexico and is too small to be genetically viable. Small, isolated populations are vulnerable to inbreeding and loss of the genetic diversity crucial for adapting to a changing world.
”It’s time to welcome jaguars back to the Gila,” said Robinson, who has lived and worked in this rural area for many years. “Jaguars are beautiful animals that belong here and will help restore the natural balance and health of our woods, grasslands and mountains.”
Jaguars used to live across much of the southern United States, but disappeared due to clearing of forests, draining of wetlands, and hunting and trapping intended to protect livestock. Since the 1990s jaguars that are assumed to have come from Mexico have again begun to appear in southern Arizona and New Mexico.
The Center for Biological Diversity’s lawsuits and public organizing resulted in Endangered Species Act protection for the jaguar in the United States in 1997 and in current efforts to designate critical habitat and develop a recovery plan.
Critical habitat designation prohibits federal agencies from harming the landscape features necessary for an endangered species’ recovery; species with critical habitat are twice as likely to be recovering as those without it.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 450,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.