According to the Center for Biological Diversity, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Friday formally proposed 838,232 acres as "critical habitat" for endangered jaguars in southern Arizona and New Mexico.
From the Center:
“Jaguars once roamed across the United States, from California to Louisiana, but have been virtually extinct here since the 1950s,” said Kierán Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity, which has worked for almost 20 years to bring back American jaguars. “Today's habitat proposal will ensure North America's largest cat returns to the wild mountains and deserts of the Southwest. Jaguars are a spectacular part of our natural heritage and belong to every American — just as surely as bald eagles, wolves and grizzly bears."
Like the gray wolf, jaguars were driven from the United States by federal and state predator-killing programs. Over the past two decades, however, the animals have begun recolonizing Arizona and New Mexico. Macho B, the last jaguar known to have crossed into the United States from Mexico, was killed in a botched state capture effort in 2009.
Jaguars were listed as an endangered species in 1997, in response to a petition by scientists and a lawsuit by the Center for Biological Diversity. In 2007 the American Society of Mammalogists declared that establishing a U.S. population is essential to the species’ long-term survival in light of ecosystem changes wrought by global warming. It called on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to prepare a federal jaguar recovery plan and protect its habitat. Today’s proposal comes in response to a 2009 court order, secured by the Center, requiring the Service to prepare a recovery plan and designate critical habitat to ensure the species' recovery.
“You can’t protect endangered species without protecting the places they live,” said Suckling. “Species with protected critical habitat recover twice as fast as those without it. This wild expanse of habitat is a huge boost to the return of jaguars to the American Southwest.”
Today's critical habitat proposal, which will be finalized within a year, spans six units in Pima, Santa Cruz and Cochise counties, Ariz., and Hidalgo County, N.M. It includes:
● 138,975 acres in the Baboquivari Mountains, Ariz.
● 143,578 acres in the Tumacacori, Atascosa and Pajarito mountains, Ariz.
● 343,033 acres in the Santa Rita, Patagonia and Huachuca mountains and the Canelo Hills, Ariz.
● 105,498 acres in the Whetstone Mountains, including connections to the Santa Rita and Huachuca Mountains, Ariz.
● 99,559 acres in the Peloncillo Mountains, Ariz. and N.M.
● 7,590 acres in the San Luis Mountains, N.M.