Mar 11, 2001
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August 9, 2002  

Plan on Lynx Release OKd in Colorado
Associated Press

DENVER -- The Colorado Wildlife Commission on Thursday approved plans to release more lynx in the state on condition that federal officials give the state greater say in managing the cats.

A Colorado Sierra Club official claimed the decision was driven by politics, not concern for the lynx.

The resolution, approved 6 to 2, directs the Division of Wildlife to proceed with plans to transplant up to 180 more lynx from Canada, a move biologists say is needed to give the state's reintroduction program the best chance to succeed.

"I'm not sure there's anybody who doesn't want us to succeed with the lynx," state wildlife chief Russ George said.

But commissioners want to make sure the animals' welfare is balanced with protection of people's rights and believe the state can do that better.

Biologists think there might not be enough of the cats, now scattered throughout the southwest Colorado mountains, to establish a self-sustaining population.

The state released 96 lynx from Canada in 1999 and 2000 to reestablish the longhaired, tuft-eared cat in Colorado. There is no evidence the remaining 39 accounted for in late spring have any offspring.

State officials must negotiate a deal with the U.S. Forest Service and other agencies to manage the program because lynx are designated as threatened on the federal Endangered Species List and as endangered by the state. That gives the animals certain protections, including restrictions on killing the lynx if they threaten domestic livestock.

George said Colorado and federal officials have already opened negotiations on an agreement.

The Wildlife Commission is looking for ways to get around the Endangered Species Act, said Mike Smith, wildlife chairman of the Colorado chapter of the Sierra Club.

"They are holding the program hostage," Smith said. "While they play politics with it, the numbers of lynx dwindle and make it even harder to establish a viable population in Colorado."

He said there is no reason to sanction the killing of lynx because they are not the kind of predators wolves are. The cats' main prey is snowshoe rabbits.

George acknowledged that some of the plan's provisions may spark controversy, but the goal is to craft something that is palatable to as many people as possible.

Lynx were native to Colorado, but were wiped out by trapping, poisoning and loss of habitat because of development. The last confirmed lynx sighting before reintroduction was in 1973 near Vail.
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