A new study, published by Cambridge University Press, “A systematic review of potential habitat suitability for the jaguar Panthera onca in central Arizona and New Mexico, USA,” claims that large areas of Arizona and New Mexico may be suitable habitat for wild jaguars.
From the study abstract:
“Here we present a systematic review of the modelling and assessment efforts over the last 25 years, with a focus on areas north of Interstate-10 in Arizona and New Mexico, outside the recovery unit considered by the USFWS. Despite differences in data inputs, methods, and analytical extent, the nine previous studies found support for potential suitable jaguar habitat in the central mountain ranges of Arizona and New Mexico. Applying slightly modified versions of the USFWS model and recalculating an Arizona-focused model over both states provided additional confirmation. Extending the area of consideration also substantially raised the carrying capacity of habitats in Arizona and New Mexico, from six to 90 or 151 adult jaguars, using the modified USFWS models. This review demonstrates the crucial ways in which choosing the extent of analysis influences the conclusions of a conservation plan. More importantly, it opens a new opportunity for jaguar conservation in North America that could help address threats from habitat losses, climate change and border infrastructure.” (Link to full paper)
The study has 17 authors, 14 of which (in my opinion) belong to radical environmental groups.
As stated in the abstract, the researchers did no on-the-ground research, but instead used models to “cherry-pick” previous publications. Reports of this study appeared in the Arizona Republic and in the March 19, 2021 print edition only of the Arizona Daily Star.
This study renews a very controversial topic. My take on the study is that the authors are campaigning for establishment of more critical habitat. Even if larger areas of Arizona and New Mexico could support Jaguar habitat, there is still no reason to formally establish “critical habitat” which would have many bad effects on property rights and natural resource production. The natural habitats in Mexico, Central America, South America are sufficient to provide for the species.
In my previous article on this subject Proposed Jaguar Habitat in Arizona and New Mexico Is Scientifically and Legally Indefensible, I provide a report from the Pima Natural Resource Conservation District (PNRCD): which “shows that the proposal by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) to designate Critical Habitat for the jaguar under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) is scientifically indefensible because it is based on flawed data, and it violates laws such as the Data Quality Act.”
PNRCD requested that FWS withdraw its proposed rule “because habitat ‘essential’ to the conservation of the jaguar as a species does not exist in either Arizona or New Mexico under any scientifically credible definition of that term, because designation of critical habitat therein cannot possibly help save jaguars, and because the economic consequences of adding yet another layer of regulation and restriction on national security, resource production, water use, hunting and recreation during the worst recession on record since 1929 far outweigh any possibly discernible benefit to jaguars as a species that might be gained by designating critical habitat for them north of the Mexican border where they are but rarely transient…”
“For Critical Habitat to be established under ESA, the FWS must show that the area in question is essential to the jaguars conservation and survival as a species, not merely whether the area in question could host or has hosted individual, transient jaguars.”