In case you missed this news a month ago, the Fish and Wildlife Service has decided to propose delisting Canada lynx.
The Canada lynx was listed as threatened in 2000 largely due to a lack of regulatory mechanisms on federal public lands, which is where a majority of the habitat for Canada lynx was believed to be located in the lower 48 states. Since receiving ESA protection, federal land managers throughout the lynx’s range have formally amended their management plans and implemented conservation measures to conserve the species. For example, all U.S. Forest Service land management plans in the Rocky Mountain region have been amended to include conservation measures for the Canada lynx.
The recommendation was informed by a recently completed, peer-reviewed Species Status Assessment for the lynx, which compiled and evaluated the best available scientific information on the historical, current and possible future conditions for the Canada lynx. Over a two-year process, the Service worked closely with federal, state and academic subject matter experts to evaluate relevant scientific information on snowshoe hare population dynamics, climate change, forest ecology and other issues. Although climate change remains an important factor for the conservation of the Canada lynx, neither the Service nor the experts we consulted conclude that the lynx is at risk of extinction from climate change within the foreseeable future.
That last sentence may be the most important. The Trump Administration has been revisiting and redefining what “foreseeable future” means. They basically seem to be saying that the main thing that has changed is that they no longer think extinction is predictable enough to worry about yet. There is also this motivation:
Given the outcome of this analysis, the Service will not at this time be completing a recovery plan for the Canada lynx.
Which was due in January. Here and here are some other concerns. I wouldn’t be surprised if it took another 18 years to get this through court, but by then extinction may be close enough to count. And much as the Forest Service would like it to, delisting doesn’t mean they could remove the regulatory mechanisms that contributed to delisting. If delisting happens, it would be worth recognizing this as a payoff for good forest planning, and as a model for future plans involving listed or potentially listed species.