For Immediate Release, March 31, 2009
Contact: Michael Robinson, (575) 534-0360
Judge Strikes Down Refusal to Recover Jaguars, Protect U.S. Habitat
TUCSON, Ariz.— Ruling on a lawsuit brought by the Center for Biological Diversity, a federal judge today struck down the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s refusal to develop a recovery plan for the endangered jaguar and to protect critical habitat areas in the United States.
The Bush administration had refused both, declaring that the historic range of the jaguar, which stretched from San Francisco Bay to the Appalachians, was “insignificant” and therefore no recovery efforts were needed in the United States. This was the first time in the 35-year history of the Endangered Species Act that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service declared it would not recover a domestic species.
“Judge Roll has thrown a lifeline to one of North America’s most endangered animals,” said Michael Robinson, conservation advocate for the Center for Biological Diversity. “The court today roundly rejected the Bush administration’s refusal to protect and restore jaguars to the United States. We can now finally put the Bush era behind us and start the long, hard work of restoring the U.S. jaguar population.”
Critical habitat provides key protections for endangered species by identifying and protecting those areas that are essential to their recovery and survival. Species with critical habitat recover twice as fast as species without it.
Recovery plans provide a road map for bringing species back from the brink of extinction. Species with recovery plans also recover much faster than species without them.
“Recovery planning and habitat protection are the heart of the Endangered Species Act,” said Robinson. “Without them, endangered species will never recover.”
The last known female jaguar in the United States was shot by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 1963, in Arizona. The last known jaguar in the country, a male animal at least 15 years old known as Macho B, was euthanized by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Arizona Department of Game and Fish on March 2, 2009, following a stressful capture and radio-collaring incident. The decision has come under fire by scientists and conservationists who argued that jaguars should not be captured outside the context of an approved federal recovery plan and that evidence was lacking to prove the jaguar would not have survived with sufficient medical treatment.
Jaguars are the largest feline native to North America. They previously ranged throughout the southern United States from the San Francisco Bay area to the Appalachian Mountains. The species was listed as endangered outside the United States in 1969 and inside the United States on July 22, 1997, as a result of a previous lawsuit by the Center for Biological Diversity.
The ruling was issued by U.S. District Judge John M. Roll of Tucson, Arizona. It requires the Fish and Wildlife Service to issue new recovery plan and critical habitat decisions by January 2010.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 200,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.