The administration is increasingly citing global warming to justify expansion of the endangered species habitat, pushing development and recreation away from over 26 million acres, the latest to save the Canada Lynx.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service this week proposed slightly expanded “critical habitat” for the endangered lynx in part because the administration claims warmer winters from Maine to Washington State have reduced the area of “fluffy snow” the 25-pound cat likes to hunt snowshoe rabbits in.
“Climate change is likely to be a significant issue of concern for the future conservation of the lynx,” said the agency in a 187-page proposed rule that will now collect public comments. “Climate change is expected to substantially reduce the amount and quality of lynx habitat in the contiguous United States, with patches of high-quality habitat becoming smaller, more fragmented, and more isolated,” said the agency.
An agency official said that climate change was “not a factor” in the lynx decision, however.
Under the proposed rule, development and recreational activities would be limited or barred in 26 million acres — about the size of Virginia — along Canada’s border in six states. The rule is revised from an earlier one that was challenged by environmental groups for not including enough habitat for the lynx. That 2009 decision had set aside the bulk of the 26 million acres. The new rule would add about 400,000 acres.
“Canada lynx need quiet places free of disturbance from snowmobiles and other human activities to survive,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity.
President Obama has said repeatedly that he will use his executive powers to institute climate change policy opposed by Republicans in Congress, and the endangered species list is one of those tools.
The government recently cited global warming in proposing to protect the wolverine and 66 coral species.
The lynx move was assailed by Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., and chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee. “While the administration cannot even define how many lynx there are or what the number of decline has been, they are pressing ahead to reissue a habitat designation that will significantly affect portions of six states, and reduce access for a host of activities. It’s concerning that the massive proposal does not include an accurate or updated economic impact analyses, and will create potential regulatory uncertainty for those areas affected,” he said.