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US Government Ignores Scientists And Removes Protections For Canadian Lynx

"This administration is throwing science out the window."

SCIENCE AF STAFF
17 JAN 2018
 

The Canadian lynx is about to lose its special protections after nearly two decades of holding a threatened species status, according to the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

Sounds like a reason for celebration, doesn't it?

 

Don't get too excited.

Some scientists and wildlife advocates have warned that as climate change continues, it could reduce lynx habitat and the availability of its number one favorite food - snowshoe hares.

"This is a political decision – pure and simple," Matthew Bishop, an attorney with the Western Environmental Law Center, told The Washington Post

"This administration is throwing science out the window. The best science tells us that lynx are worse off than they were when originally listed in 2000."

Some of that science Bishop is referring to came from the US Fish and Wildlife Service itself - just two years ago.

In 2016, under the Obama administration, the agency concluded it was "very unlikely" the species would survive in a century.

But under a new administration, the agency has come to a completely different conclusion. A two-year review by government biologists claim populations are stable and are even growing in parts of Colorado and Maine.

"Not only are lynx found in more places, but signs of lynx are found more frequently during our surveys," explained Chandler Woodcock, the commissioner at the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. 

 

"The research conducted by our biologists in conjunction with the USFWS showed modern forest management practices are compatible with lynx conservation."

The Canadian lynx is well-adapted to snowy habitats, but thanks to a shrinking cryosphere – the places on Earth where water takes a solid form – its advantage is fast disappearing, and the species is already feeling the effects.

As snow begins to dissipate, the lynx's snowshoe-like feet will struggle to pick up steam when hunting for prey, as snow-shoe hare chase the receding snow line north, at a rate of more than five miles a decade.

So even if Canadian lynx numbers are actually stabilising and increasing in some areas, which Bishop argues is not correct, this hopeful trajectory is not likely to continue.

Removing special protections is the first step to taking the Canadian lynx off the Endangered Species List completely. If this occurs, conservationists worry we will never be able to bring the species back.