Jaguars versus the Rosemont mine

JaguarThe 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.




  1. I agree. It is very strange that the proposed Rosemont Copper project is being singled out in the Center for Biological Diversity’s effort to get 1,309 square miles of southeastern Arizona and a portion of New Mexico designated as prime habitat for the jaguar. The timing is also very suspicious.

    No permanent, self-sustaining population of jaguars has not been observed in this region for well over one hundred years. And even then, southeastern Arizona was at the northern fringe of the jaguar’s historical range, which is located in Central and South America where it is not considered to be endangered.

    This seems to be nothing more than another desperate ploy by our friends at the Center for Biological Diversity, who could care less about 2,100 badly needed jobs that would result from the development of the Rosemont Copper project

  2. I find it curious that you can claim that Jaguars haven’t been seen for decades when we have documented and public video evidence showing otherwise from as recent as this year. Regardless, even if this is just government conspiracy number 37.45637 in your long list I support anything that would prevent the complete and utter blight on Southern Arizona that Rosemont would be from happening.

    1. “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.”
      Seth, learn how to read. idiot. You’d rather have untouched land with complete and utter blight on the people of Southern Arizona. Care and compassion for poor people isn’t your strong suit, is it?

  3. It is way, way more than jaguars versus the Rosemont Mine! “Versus the Rosemont Mine” includes the threatened water table, traffic congestion on the Sonora Highway, diminished value of nearby privately owned real estate, diminished appeal to tourists and a long list of detrimental results, if the Rosemont Mine is allowed to proceed. Jaguars deserve every single protection we can provide. So does the water table, so do drivers on the Sonoita Highway, so do the people who own real estate nearby the proposed Mine that will loose value if the Mine is allowed to be completed and so do the businesses in Sonoita and Patagonia that will have fewer tourists show up.

    1. It has been my experience that places with mines have more tourists. The mine itself becomes an attraction and that helps nearby businesses also.

      1. Silver City, NM, with the Tyrone and Chino mines, Green Valley, AZ with Mission’s mineral discovery center, Morenci, AZ which gives tours, Bingham pit, Utah, Butte Montana to name just a few.

      2. Okay. How many people stop in at Mission’s mineral discovery center and how many people go hiking, birding and hunting in the Santa Rita Mtns? And, how many people go on the Morenci mine tours?

      3. Since you think you know the answers, why not do some research and report back?

      4. So that’s all that counts, eh? The ring of cash regiser, the deepening piles of green pieces of paper, the insistent clamoring for more and more growth in a smaller and smaller world?

        Seems a poverty striken world filled to brim with such insanity.

  4. Hello Jonathan:

    It’s good to see someone chewing on these juicy topics, raising the dust, obscuring the horizon. Someone, after all must defend the poor, downtrodden mine owners as they provide such a worthy service to humanity.

    The jaguars, now, they can fend for themselves. They have all of Mexico to root around in, after all. No jobs for Americans at stake down there, just empty space, untrammeled jaguar habitat a-plenty.

    I met a jaguar once, in the back of beyond. A surly fellow, he didn’t stop for conversation, a sharing of views on the subject of endangered mining employees, talus piles or polluted water courses. He merely slipped away among the rocks, intent on his jaguar business.

    I, like the jaguar, appreciate hundreds of square miles of naked earth, jumbled rocks, desert heat. It suits my aging bones. The sounds of industrial hyper-activity creep inexorably closer from every direction, instilling a growing sense of panic. The old haunts disappear under the crushing wheels of the megamachine, prey animals move on to other, less stressful climes, and lunch becomes an increasingly rare occasion.

    If we must have mines, an assertion I have come to doubt, let’s put them where it no longer matters. Speedway Boulevard leaps immediately to mind. Then sycophantic journalists, growth maniacs and Chamber of Commerce toadies wouldn’t have to travel so far to gloat on their destructive ways.

    And jaguars could enjoy a respite from relentless human encroachment on their ancestral home.

    Michael Lewis
    Arana Gulch

  5. The people who are promoting critical habitat for jaguars want us to believe that all natural history in Arizona began in 1900.The activists that dominate the jaguar literature and government agencies want us all to buy into the FAIRY TALE that jaguars were just as abundant in Arizona before 1900 as during the first decade of the 20th century. It simply was not the case. Look for records of jaguars in Arizona or New Mexico before about 1895. There are almost none. For example, in 1867 Elliot Coues wrote in “Quadripeds of Arizona” that jaguars were only known from the Rio Grande Valley in southern Texas. But suddenly, between 1900 and 1910, at least 22 jaguars were killed in various locations in Arizona. Then you might notice that ALL of the the “scientific” charts showing the “dramatic decline” of jaguars in Arizona begin in exactly 1900, (apparently for the shock value) when the population of jaguars actually may have been returning to normal. The biological community ought to be seeking the answer to the true mystery. Why did jaguars suddenly flood into Arizona in 1900? Or is it better to squander millions of taxpayer dollars running around screaming that the sky is falling and suing people?

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