We're arriving fashionably late to the jaguar party here at Demarcated Landscapes. Not because we didn't know when the party started, but because we wanted everyone else to have a good buzz on before we showed up wearing our crankypants.
First, a toast to a remarkable proposal to protect jaguar habitat on 838,232 acres—"an area larger than Rhode Island" (good story at link)—as "critical" under the Endangered Species Act. Critical habitat means that federal agencies can't "adversely modify" (screw up) lands within the boundaries to the extent that the jaguar will be in jeopardy, that is, in jeopardy of imminent extinction.
In particular, the ruling takes a sharp stick and pokes it right into the eye of the Rosemont Mine,which could be seriously, ahem, hindered if the Fish and Wildlife Service sticks to biology.
The Rosemont Mine was the only major project spelled out in the federal proposal that could potentially damage jaguar habitat. The Wildlife Service is already reviewing the mine project to determine if it will jeopardize 10 federally protected species, including the jaguar. But critical habitat protection is generally more sweeping than protection of individual species. (Via Tony Davis, Arizona Daily Star, who has been covering jaguars and Rosemont forEVER.)Wouldn't that be dreamy? Two wins in one: jaguars good, mines bad. We'll drink to that!
Now, bottoms up for our critique: It's too bad that the critical habitat isn't the shape of Rhode Island too, because then we would all realize, a) how small it is, and b) how fragmented it is. The Service declined to connect the veritable sky islands of proposed habitat, saying that while jaguars certainly cross through the low elevation areas, it wasn't possible to predict which areas, and therefore, it isn't possible to protect any or all of the low elevation areas because they have no way of knowing which ones are important. Thus, most of the proposed critical habitat runs north-south along the mountain ranges that the cat has been spotted and/or trapped in in recent decades, but not much in between. And barely a scratch in New Mexico, despite the huge potential for recovering the big kitty over there. (Well, "huge" until the same cowboys killing the wolves start killing it anyway.)
In context of the critter's former and otherwise-would-be potential and future range, the current proposal is more of a token gesture, designed to silence the court-happy plaintiffs who twisted the agency's arm into last week's proposal (or didn't). But, it's a hell of a lot better than nothing, which is what the jaguar has now in the U.S. Nonetheless, we'll save the back-slapping until the final rule comes out, kiddos, especially if President Romney gets to appoint the next Interior Secretary.
Talk about a buzzkill, right?
How about a drinking cheer to bring the mood back up again?
What do we want? More! / When do we want it? Now!
What do we want? Roar! / When do we want it? Meow!
P.S. Who knew? US Fish and Wildlife Service SW Director Steve Spangle trolls the interwebs for blog posts on his proposals. Guess we'd better start being nice.