New Mexico Federal Lands Council
MAP WILL FOLLOW....
A Country Girls Musing
By Susan Krentz
A Jaguar Conservation Team (JAGCT) meeting will be held April 27th and 28th, at the Baxter Civic Center in Lordsburg, New Mexico. Both meetings will begin at 10:00 a.m. and are open to the public.
Several local residents have been attending these Team meetings since their inception in 1997. At that time, a lawsuit by the Center for Biological Diversity was pending against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), to list the jaguar as endangered throughout its historical range.
When a jaguar was photographed in the Peloncillo Mountains in Arizona near Cochise County’s southeastern border the push was on to finalize the listing. We were told, if we worked to develop a Conservation Assessment and Strategy between the states, we might be able to keep the jaguar from being listed.
It didn’t work. A federal judge ordered the jaguar and three other species to be listed as endangered. In spite of the listing, many of us continued to attend the Team meetings, working in good faith, to come up with a strategy that would protect any jaguars that might wander into the U.S. from Mexico. For 9 years we have continued to attend these meetings. During this time, we have become well-acquainted with the other players on the Team and their intents.
There are several individuals involved in this process that have no intention of developing a conservation strategy that employs sound science or common sense. Their one objective is to use the jaguar as their surrogate species to hammer and control the people that live in “potential” jaguar habitat areas.
Although the scientists on the Jaguar Scientific Advisory Group (JAGSAG) agree the recent sightings of jaguar in southern Arizona and New Mexico are most likely wanderers from a core breeding population in Mexico, 150 miles south of Douglas, Arizona, the radical environmental groups want to develop a strategy that could lead to land control and private property abuse in the newly defined “potential habitat” in Arizona and New Mexico.
Jaguars have been living in Northern Mexico for at least the last 150-200 years. However, according to Alan Rabinowitz, world-renown jaguar expert, “For at least the last century, the jaguar has been a regular, albeit infrequent, visitor to a small area of the borderlands region of the southwest United States. If there were resident breeding populations of jaguars in the past, they were very small, probably short-lived, and not viable””.
We have repeatedly reminded the Arizona Game and Fish Department, the Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, Sky Island Alliance, Wildlands Project and other nefarious environmental organizations of Dr. Rabinowitz’s opinion to no avail.
Now some of these same organizations are suing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife to designate critical habitat for the jaguar in the U.S. Thus we are at a new crossroads. The Conservation Team is being tasked by Arizona Game and Fish to develop a new Conservation Assessment (CA). In lieu of “critical habitat” we are being asked to determine “potential habitat”. Reports and maps for potential habitat in Arizona and New Mexico have been developed by both state game agencies and the Center for Biological Diversity.
In the meetings on the 27th and 28th the Team will be discussing the new Conservation Agreement drafted, yet not released for review, by the Arizona Game and Fish Department. This CA will be including reports and maps produced by the Center and the two states wildlife agencies. We will not be asked if “potential habitat” exists in the U.S., only where we should begin our planning efforts.
Dr. Rabinowitz was very clear on whether critical habitat exists in the U.S. when he wrote in 1997: “Available data and examination of the habitat in the borderlands region also suggest that there is no area in the United States that is critical for the survival of the jaguar”. He defined habitat as: 1) a place where a plant or animal naturally lives and grows; 2) the typical place of residence; 3) the place where something is commonly found.” He goes on to say, “I have yet to see or hear about any place in the U.S. that meets the criteria of ‘jaguar habitat’”.
If there is no critical habitat what makes us think potential habitat exists? Dr. Rabinowitz wrote in his trip report to our area in 1997: “The fact that southwestern United States is the northern limit of the modern jaguar’s range is not by chance. The more open, dry habitats of the southwest are marginal for the jaguar in terms of water, cover and prey density”.
Not only are the game departments and the radical environmental groups ignoring the opinion of the leading jaguar expert, they are using questionable data in the habitat criteria used in the modeling process to determine “potential habitat”.
One criterion relates to water availability and states, “water should be available at least seasonally”. However, jaguars are water loving cats and prefer areas that are close to rivers and streams. Alan Rabinowitz had this to say about water requirements for jaguar: “Jaguars, unlike puma, must have a year round water source in order to reside in an area, and they must have at least a seasonal water source, in order to even use an area for part of the year. Areas with no or ‘transient’ water sources could be eliminated as good jaguar habitat.” There are not many areas with transient waters in southern Arizona and New Mexico, much less seasonal waters, because of the changing climatic conditions over the last 500 years, and more recently the drought over the last 10-15 years.
Another criteria used in the mapping process is prey availability. Dr. Rabinowitz wrote this regarding prey: “without the prey, it is not jaguar habitat, at least not habitat where jaguars can live. The fact that it might be able to be managed for prey at some point in the future does not make it habitat….” If both water availability and the prey base are limited in our area, what makes us think “potential habitat” exists?
The Center for Biological Diversity is suggesting “potential habitat” be “managed” to establish a sufficient prey base for jaguars. Hidden in the term “managed” is an unspoken desire to see all hunting and trapping banned. Then, as the prey base is “managed” by our federal and state wildlife agencies, a reintroduction plan can be developed in the future by this same organization.
There are other organizations that would like to see the Conservation Assessment written to include “enforcement mechanisms” to hold the state wildlife agencies “accountable”. Could they be planning on using the new CA to sue the state agencies and counties as they have so successfully sued the federal agencies and our nation over endangered species in the past?
The question then is what do we, the people, want to see in our counties and states? Do we want outside interests controlling future economic growth? Or, do we want the future left in our own hands? As the old saying goes, “the world is run by those who show up”. I hope you will join us in the Jaguar Conservation Team meeting on April 27th and 28th. Your future may depend upon it.