Can’t see the lynx for the trees |

Can’t see the lynx for the trees

Matt Zalaznick

Unless some hoodlums have stolen a bunch of radio collars and are running through the White River National Forest, somebody in Washington, D.C., or Denver is not telling the truth about lynx in and around Eagle County. About a week after a U.S. undersecretary of agriculture named David Tenney removed rules protecting lynx on the forest – because he said he had seen no evidence of the rare animals in this neck of the woods – the Colorado Division of Wildlife released a map showing the dozens of times lynx have been tracked in the area. Radio transmissions from the animals’ collars picked up by satellite and airplanes located 43 lynx moving through the 2.3-million acre White River National Forest, leading state wildlife officers to believe some are actually living and breeding in the national forest between Summit County and Rifle. Keith Giezentanner, the forest’s wildlife manager, even said there is a “handful” of lynx having baby lynx and gobbling up snowshoe hares in the national forest where the high level bureaucrat sees no evidence of the cats’ existence. But this curious declaration that there aren’t any lynx where there clearly are lynx – where lynx have, in fact, been run over by cars (two on Vail Pass) – lends credibility to the accusations that environmentalists have made against Tenney. Looks like lynx – or protecting them, at least – may be on the wrong side of the political fence. Perhaps lynx have come out against Social Security reform or drilling in the Alaskan Arctic. Maybe the eight ski resorts in the White River forest do have some ability to help the undersecretary not see the lynx for the trees. Those little critters can really get in the way of (but have yet to prevent) ski area expansion. Before Tenney tinkered with the rules, new ski projects had to be judged by their potential to harm Canada lynx, which are considered a “threatened” species in the United States. But it’s not just inflating ski areas that stand to benefit from pretending certain wildlife don’t exist. Under Tenney’s less focused regulations, energy developers (such as oil and gas companies) and timber crews, whose plans gel with White House policies like the controversial Healthy Forest Act, won’t have to count lynx before they set up shop in the forest. Tenney has been in the neighborhood before to adjust wildlife regulations. He’s changed rules in Colorado’s Rio Grande, Routt and Arapahoe/Roosevelt national forests. And the whole thing would be a lot less curious – it would seem a lot less sinister – if the state didn’t have a map (which can be found at riddled with colorful dots indicating recurring lynx visits to the White River forest over the past five years. So the state’s popular reintroduction project is not being supported by the federal government. So much for local control, or even “new” federalism. Vail, Colorado

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