The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) will seek public comment on its proposal to designate “Critical Habitat” for the jaguar in Southern Arizona and New Mexico. USFWS had previously determined that Critical Habitat “for the jaguar in the United States would not be prudent.” However, an Arizona District Court found that the previous decision was “not legally sufficient.”
The proposal is not scientifically sufficient either. Two years ago I wrote:
A Freedom of Information Act inquiry has revealed that the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service decision to declare portions of Arizona and New Mexico as “Critical Habitat” for the jaguar has no basis in fact. USFWS based its decision on unsubstantiated anecdotal stories that did not meet the Endangered Species Act definition of minimum scientific standards. The inquiry also found possible collusion between an employee of the Arizona Fish and Game Department and the Center for Biological Diversity. The report of the inquiry was written by Biologist/Attorney Dennis Parker.
Read the rest of that story in my article: Jaguar Listing and Habitat Designation Based on Junk Science. At the time that story was written the USFWS claimed that designation of “Critical Habitat” was “prudent”, i.e., it was prudent before it was not prudent and now it is prudent again.
FWS is now proposing “Critical Habitat” again. From a FWS press release:
The Service has identified 838,232 acres in six units in primarily mountainous portions of southeastern Arizona and southwestern New Mexico that will be considered for potential critical habitat. These include 547,000 acres of Federal land; 111,741 acres of State of Arizona land; 76,329 acres of Tribal land; and 103,143 acres of private lands. Critical habitat designations have no effect on actions taking place on non-federal lands unless proposed activities involve federal funding or permitting.
I wonder if collecting Social Security payments would be considered “federal funding” and trigger the bureaucratic implications on private land.
The proposed Rosemont copper mine would be directly impacted by “Critical Habitat” designation because the mine site occurs in the northern end of the designated lands (see map from the Arizona Daily Star below).
The Rosemont mine’s footprint is about 4,400 acres according to the Arizona Daily Star. That’s 0.5% of the whole area. Is that half percent really critical? The portion of habitat occupied by the mine is broken in four places by highways. The Arizona Daily Star notes that the proposed “Critical Habitat” “includes areas known to have been occupied by jaguars since 1962, or land considered essential for the animal even if jaguars haven’t been seen there in recent decades.”
So, if jaguars haven’t been seen for decades, how “critical” is the land? In the last twenty years, there have been about a half dozen jaguar sightings throughout Southern Arizona and all those sightings have been of male jaguars. It is obvious that Southern Arizona is not breeding ground for jaguars. Those few male jaguars have wandered north from their main breeding areas in Mexico. Southern Arizona is obviously not “critical” to jaguar breeding.
I find it curious that the proposed “Critical Habitat” includes the Rosemont site, the site of mineral exploration farther south near Patagonia, and the water source for the City of Tombstone, but does not include the Chiricahua Mountains farther to the east near the New Mexico portion of proposed habitat. According to the National Park Service, “The Chiricahua mountains were also historically the home of the jaguar.” Of course, there are no known economic mineral deposits in the Chiricahua Mountains. That makes it look like the radical environmentalists and USFWS are targeting potentially productive land to make them off limits.
Another question: How will designation of “Critical Habitat” affect border security?
The jaguar’s range extends through Mexico, Central America, and much of South America. A few thousand acres in Arizona will not make a difference to the species as a whole. This whole jaguar issue shows how the Endangered Species Act can be abused. ESA should be repealed.
This “Critical Habitat” proposal is scientifically unjustified. It is just another green utopian obstacle placed in the path of job creation and beneficial use of the land.