On May 16, 2013, U.S. District Court Judge Dana Christensen ruled in favor of conservation groups and found that the U.S. Forest Service violated the Endangered Species Act when it failed to consult with the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service to determine whether its region-wide management direction for the threatened Canada lynx would destroy or adversely affect 10 million acres of designated critical habitat for the elusive feline.
In the past, the Forest Service had taken a project by project approach to managing critical habitat, but recovering Canada lynx requires managing their habitat at the large landscape scale. This ruling requires the Forest Service to sit down with the Fish and Wildlife Service to ensure its big-picture management scheme is protecting the 10 million acres of designated lynx critical habitat in the northern Rockies. The judge’s ruling impacts 11 national forests containing designated critical habitat in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming.
The lawsuit challenged the Forest Service’s failure to consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to ensure that the Northern Rockies Lynx Management Direction would not destroy lynx critical habitat. At the time the management direction was adopted, lynx critical habitat was only designated in three national parks—Glacier, North Cascades and Voyageurs. The U.S Fish and Wildlife Service subsequently designated 10 million acres of critical habitat across 11 national forests in the northern Rockies after it determined that Julie MacDonald, a high ranking political appointee in the Bush Administration, had improperly interfered with critical habitat designations for several species, including the Canada lynx. The court ruling determined that the Forest Service should have consulted with the Fish and Wildlife Service when the new critical habitat was designated.