Lawmakers scrutinize lynx protections |

Lawmakers scrutinize lynx protections

Dennis Webb
Daily file photoColorado's top U.S. Forest Service Official said changes in local forest policies do not leave lynx and water unprotected as some critics have claimed.

DENVER – Regional forester Rick Cables promised state lawmakers Wednesday endangered lynx will be protected in the surrounding White River National Forest.Cables, who heads the Forest Service’s Rocky Mountain Region, also said the U.S. Department of Agriculture used flawed information that there were no lynx in the forest to strike regulations from the forest’s management policies. Cables spoke at a hearing on the Forest Service’s handling of the lynx called by the state House and Senate’s Joint Agriculture Committee.Jacob Smith, executive director for the Center for Native Ecosystems, told the committee U.S. Department of Agriculture deputy secretary David Tenny’s policy changes have left “lynx protections less clear and less certain than they were before.”

But Cables said that decision maintains current protections for lynx habitat, pending completion later this year of a wider forest lynx strategy for the southern Rockies.”The notion that we’ve somehow gutted protections, to use a quote that I’ve heard more than once – or that there’s some dramatic change in the current situation – is just not the case,” Cables said. “I don’t think that Mr. Tenny’s decision has put the lynx at risk.”Smith argued the Forest Service fails to protect potential lynx habitat adequately.”The problem is that lynx move in the course of a year, in the course of a month, in the course of a day,” he said.

State Division of Wildlife Director Bruce McCloskey said lynx, which his agency released in the Creede area, sometimes travel thousands of miles. “We had to go pick up one in Nebraska a few weeks ago,” he said.Cables said Tenny decision was influenced by policies that said they were no lynx in the White River National Forest, which surrounds Eagle County and includes Vail and Beaver Creek mountains. “He was making a decision based on the data that he had,” Cables said. “We’re making more informed decisions as we go, and we’re going to continue to do that.”Cables said the Southern Rockies lynx plan is now the priority. Smith, of the Center for Native Ecosystems, said agreed with Cables about the importance of the southern Rockies plan. But he wasn’t assured the Forest Service will protect lynx adequately, he said.

“I didn’t hear him commit to producing a scientifically sound lynx management plan,” he said, claiming the plan proposes “sweeping exemptions” for oil and gas, logging and other activities.State Rep. Josh Penry, R-Grand Junction, said the Forest Service’s lynx strategy is critical because it has implications for millions of acres of public and private land in Colorado. “We are working on this together,” Cables responded, “and we’ve got sometimes some arcane processes that we have to follow. … We are going to work through those things and we are going to give this reintroduction effort a chance to succeed.”Dennis Webb can be reached at Colorado

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