Old News Archive

Maine Audubon Opposes Wildlife Exemption Requested by Plum Creek and Other Large Landowners

October 11, 2006 - TRC

State’s largest wildlife conservation organization concerned lynx in Maine could disappear

FALMOUTH, Maine, October 5, 2006—Maine Audubon is calling on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to deny requests from large landowners in Maine for an exemption to a proposed federal rule to protect threatened Canada lynx.

“We can’t let lynx go extinct in Maine,” said Sally Stockwell, Maine Audubon conservation director. “Lynx are in trouble across the nation, and Maine is the only state in the East where they exist.”

The Maine Forest Products Council, on behalf of its members, and Seattle-based Plum Creek, a Real Estate Investment Trust that is the largest private landowner in the nation, want their land excluded from 10,000 square miles in Maine proposed for designation under the Endangered Species Act as “critical habitat” for the threatened Canada lynx.

According to the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service, land designated as critical habitat contains features essential for the conservation of a threatened or endangered species and may require special management considerations or protection. The designation does not affect private land ownership, eliminate timber harvesting, or establish a conservation area.

However, if a development project is proposed within critical habitat and requires a permit or funding from a federal agency, USFWS must review the project’s potential effects on the critical habitat.

Part of 421,000 acres around Moosehead Lake that Plum Creek seeks to have rezoned for development is within the proposed critical habitat designation, as is land in Aroostook, Franklin, Penobscot, Piscataquis and Somerset counties.

“We’re concerned that lynx could disappear in Maine if an exemption is granted for vast acres of lynx habitat,” Stockwell said. “We encourage the Maine Forest Products Council and Plum Creek to work with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to develop and implement a management plan that’s guided by the critical habitat designation and addresses the habitat needs of the lynx.”

The Maine Forest Products Council and Plum Creek claim their land should be exempted from the critical habitat designation because they will protect lynx habitat by following the rules of the Maine Forest Practices Act. But while the Act limits the size of forest clear-cuts and buffers between clear-cuts, it does not guarantee forest management which, over time and across multiple landownerships, would necessarily benefit Canada lynx and the lynx’s primary prey species, snowshoe hare.

In contrast, forest management practices aligned with a critical habitat designation will help create lynx habitat for dens, and shelter for raising lynx kittens, as well as habitat for snowshoe hare. These practices also will help create the travel corridors lynx need to move between areas of high-quality habitat and find mates.

If it is granted, conservationists are likely to appeal the exemption. In cases where a critical-habitat exemption from the Department of the Interior has been appealed, federal courts have repeatedly denied the appeal—and therefore the exemption.

“Instead of arguing in court, let’s work together now to save the Canada lynx,” Stockwell said.

Maine Audubon’s evaluation of an analysis prepared for USFWS of the proposed critical habitat designation’s potential economic impact revealed incorrect assumptions and significant overestimates. Among them are overestimates of the cost of preparing habitat management plans and the financial impact of limits on pre-commercial forest thinning. The economic analysis also incorrectly assumes there will be no development of the designated land, and it therefore overestimates projected losses of potential revenue.

A court order requires USFWS to decide by November 1 whether to designate nearly 27,000 square miles in four regions across the U.S. as critical habitat for the threatened Canada lynx. A public comment period on the proposed designation is open through October 11.

In 2000, Maine Audubon supported listing Canada lynx as threatened species under the Endangered Species Act because of the small number of animals known in Maine.

MAINE AUDUBON works to conserve Maine’s wildlife and wildlife habitat by engaging people of all ages in education, conservation and action.

Submitted by : Marie Malin

NOTE - This article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of the TRC Alliance Team.