Lawsuit Filed to Protect Rare Lynx From Traps in Idaho
Increase in State-permitted Fur Trapping Leads to Illegal Trapping of Wild Cats
BOISE, Idaho— Five conservation groups filed a lawsuit today against the governor of Idaho and other state officials to halt trapping that harms and often kills Canada lynx, one of the rarest cats in the United States. The lawsuit charges Gov. Butch Otter, the director of the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, and members of the state Fish and Game Commission with violations of the Endangered Species Act resulting from state permitting that leads to trapping and killing of lynx, a threatened species numbering as few as 100 animals in Idaho.
The state has failed to take any action to correct its destructive illegal activities despite repeatedly being alerted to the violations by the organizations filing today’s lawsuit, including the Center for Biological Diversity, Western Watersheds Project, Friends of the Clearwater, WildEarth Guardians and the Western Environmental Law Center.
“With lynx being pushed to the brink of extinction in the lower 48 states, it’s shameful that Idaho officials have just sat idly by for years,” said Amy Atwood of the Center for Biological Diversity. “Idaho can’t just ignore federal law and go on condoning the trapping of this rare and magnificent cat.”
Under the Endangered Species Act, trapping of a lynx is illegal, regardless of whether the cat is killed, injured or released. Any agency permitting such trapping is also liable under the Act. Canada lynx are now under unprecedented threat from recreational and commercial trapping in Idaho. With a dramatic increase in fur prices, especially for bobcat, at least three incidents of lynx being unintentionally trapped have been confirmed in just the last two years.
The Idaho Department of Fish and Game can develop a conservation plan with measures to minimize incidental trapping of lynx and receive a permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Such a plan would include restrictions on body-crushing and steel-jaw traps and snares, reporting requirements, and a daily trap check requirement throughout lynx habitat. Similar lawsuits in Minnesota and Maine have led to such restrictions.
“Idaho officials need to understand that a healthy Idaho population of this mountain cat is critical, not just to lynx survival here, but across the western United States,” said Travis Bruner, executive director of the Western Watershed Project. “We have to maintain a healthy breeding mix between Rockies and Canadian populations, and Idaho sits at the crossroads.”
Last year the Fish and Wildlife Service proposed more than 26 million acres of critical habitat across six states for the Canada lynx, which faces ongoing threats from habitat destruction and reduced snowpack from climate change.
“Lynx are a key part of what makes Idaho a world-class destination for viewing wildlife,” said Gary Macfarlane, ecosystem defense director at Friends of the Clearwater. “Sitting by while Idaho’s mountains and forests lose their last lynx would take away some of the richness that makes our state so special.”
Lynx are medium-sized, long-legged cats, ranging up to 24 pounds. They are generally nocturnal and well adapted to hunting snowshoe hare at high elevations.
“Idaho’s backwards approach to wildlife management proves the need for strong federal laws like the Endangered Species Act to ensure the survival and recovery of our most imperiled wildlife, including the Canada lynx,” said Bethany Cotton, wildlife program director for WildEarth Guardians. “The state is flouting federal law and disrupting functioning ecosystems by permitting cruel trapping of keystone species like wolves, bobcat and lynx.”
The lawsuit, which was filed today in federal district court in Boise, can be read here.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 775,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.
Western Watersheds Project is a nonprofit conservation organization with a mission to protect and restore western watersheds and wildlife through education, public policy initiatives and litigation.
Friends of the Clearwater is an Idaho-based nonprofit conservation organization that works to protect the wildness and biodiversity of the public wildlands, wildlife, and waters of Idaho’s Clearwater Basin.
WildEarth Guardians is a nonprofit conservation organization working to protect and restore the wildlife, wild places, wild rivers and health of the American West.
The Western Environmental Law Center uses the power of the law to defend and protect the American West’s treasured landscapes, iconic wildlife and rural communities.