The lynx was first protected under the ESA in 2000, at which time the DPS included only certain U.S. states. The revised the DPS definition now extends throughout the lower 48 states to encompass lynx wherever they are found.
"The Endangered Species Act gives the threatened Canada lynx a real shot at recovery in its high-elevation habitat in the northern United States,” said Noreen Walsh, the Service’s Regional Director for the Mountain Prairie Region. “Our final rule provides the Lynx – one of only seven wild cat species in the nation – with what it needs to persist and thrive for future generations of Americans."
In revising the critical habitat designation, Service biologists used the best available science to determine which habitats contain the features needed to support lynx populations and which are essential to the conservation of lynx in the contiguous United States. The final critical habitat designation totals 38,954 square miles in five units: northern Maine, northeastern Minnesota, northwestern Montana and northeastern Idaho, north-central Washington, and the Greater Yellowstone area of southwestern Montana and northwestern Wyoming. The Service concluded that areas naturally occupied by lynx populations at the time lynx were listed under the ESA are sufficient to conserve the population. Therefore, the critical habitat designation does not include areas not occupied by lynx at the time of listing. It also does not include the Southern Rocky Mountains, which currently host a lynx population that was introduced into Colorado between 1999 and 2006.
The Service first designated critical habitat for the species in 2006 and revised the designation in 2009. This latest revised designation includes most of the areas designated in 2009, as well as additional timber lands in northern Maine and Bureau of Land Management and National Park Service lands in northwestern Wyoming.
Critical habitat is a term in the ESA that identifies geographic areas containing features essential to the conservation of a listed species and which may require special management considerations or protection. Designation of critical habitat does not affect land ownership or establish a refuge or preserve. A critical habitat designation does not impose restrictions on non-federal lands unless federal funds, permits or activities are involved.
For more information on the final rule and the associated critical habitat maps, please visit the Canada lynx webpage: www.fws.gov/mountain-prairie/species/mammals/lynx/index.htm.