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For Immediate Release, March 23, 2009

Contact: Michael Robinson, (575) 313-7017

Federal Court Oral Arguments for Jaguars Today;
Press Briefing to Follow Outside Courtroom

TUCSON, Ariz.— The Center for Biological Diversity will present the case for a jaguar recovery plan and designation of jaguar critical habitat in federal district court in Tucson today at 2:00 p.m., and follow that hearing with a press conference outside the courthouse.

The hearing before Chief Judge John M. Roll will take place in the Evo A. DeConcini Federal Courthouse,  405 W. Congress Street, Suite 1500, in Tucson. The hearing is open to the public.

Following the hearing, outside the courthouse, Center for Biological Diversity attorney John Buse, along with conservation advocate Michael Robinson and executive director Kierán Suckling, will make brief public statements about the stakes for jaguars and their ecosystems.

“Jaguars have roamed our country for thousands of years,” said Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity, “and not just in Arizona and New Mexico but throughout the southeastern United States, Texas, and California, where they are no longer found. This is the American jaguar’s last stand.”

The Center for Biological Diversity is suing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to compel development of a jaguar recovery plan and designation of critical habitat for jaguars. Recovery plans are broad conservation roadmaps tailored to the specific needs of a particular endangered animal or plant species. Critical habitats are the areas necessary to conserve the species, which the federal government is not authorized to degrade.

“It is unfortunate that in the absence of a Fish and Wildlife Service director during this transition period, the Obama administration is defending an anti-wildlife Bush administration decision,” Robinson added.

The jaguar in North America once ranged from the San Francisco Bay area to the Appalachian Mountains but was eliminated from all but a tiny sliver of this range through habitat degradation, fur hunting, and to protect livestock. A federal extermination program killed the last known female jaguar in the United States in eastern Arizona’s White Mountains in 1963.

From 1969 onward, jaguars in Mexico and Central and South America were listed as an endangered species under U.S. law. Center for Biological Diversity public organizing and litigation led to the jaguar’s protection as a U.S. endangered species in 1997. That should have led to the appointment of a recovery team, development of a recovery plan, and protection of critical habitat. The Fish and Wildlife Service, however, refused to do any of this.

Even after years of motion-sensor photos of Macho B, the last known jaguar in the United States, who died on March 2, and of at least one other jaguar in Arizona, and despite historic accounts of jaguar kittens in California and Arizona — as well as old reports of jaguars as far afield as Louisiana and North Carolina — the Bush administration announced that a recovery plan was inappropriate for an animal whose "historic and current ranges occur entirely under the jurisdiction of other countries." (See finding, which documents the decision that the Center asserts is illegal.)

“The jaguar’s urgent plight calls for a science-based recovery plan and for protected critical habitat,” said Robinson.

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