Regional forester: WRNF plan will still protect lynx
Regional forester Rick Cables promised state lawmakers Wednesday that lynx would continue to be protected in the White River National Forest plan.Cables, who heads the Forest Service’s Rocky Mountain Region, also said that an imperfect process resulted in a federal official basing an appeals ruling on that plan partly on information that there were no lynx in the WRNF, despite evidence to the contrary.Cables spoke at a hearing the state House and Senate’s Joint Agriculture Committee called to address concerns about Forest Service actions regarding lynx.Jacob Smith, executive director for the Center for Native Ecosystems, told the committee that an appeals ruling by U.S. Department of Agriculture deputy undersecretary for natural resources David Tenny leaves “lynx protections less clear and less certain than they were before” on the WRNF.But Cables countered, “I don’t think that Mr. Tenny’s decision has put the lynx at risk.”He said the decision, which the Forest Service recently decided to amend its WRNF plan to reflect, continues to keep current standards and guidelines protecting lynx habitat in effect, pending completion later this year of a wider forest lynx strategy for the southern Rockies.”So 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.Smith argues that 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.Indeed, state Division of Wildlife director Bruce McCloskey said lynx, which the DOW introduced in the Creede area, sometimes travel thousands of miles.”We had to go pick up one in Nebraska a few weeks ago,” he said.State Rep. Kathleen Curry, D-Gunnison, suggested that Tenny followed a “flawed process” in making an appeals decision based on faulty information about lynx. Cables said Tenny is required by the appeals process for forest plans to base his decision on what was in the appeals record. He said the WRNF plan didn’t indicate lynx in the forest.”He was making a decision based on the data that he had,” Cables said. “That’s the nature of it; it’s not perfect, there’s no question about that,” he said of the appeals process. “We’re making more informed decisions as we go, and we’re going to continue to do that.”Cables argued that the constraints guiding Tenny’s decision aren’t pertinent now, and what’s more important is completing work on the Southern Rockies plan.Smith and other environmentalists continue to question the basis for Tenny’s decision, arguing that the forest plan addressed the possible presence of lynx. But Smith agreed with Cables in an interview Wednesday that the important thing now is the southern Rockies plan. However, he wasn’t assured by Cables’ comments that the Forest Service will protect lynx adequately.”I didn’t hear him commit to producing a scientifically sound lynx management plan,” he said.He said 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 for Colorado because it has implications for millions of acres of public and private land in the state.Cables responded, “We are working on this together, and we’ve got sometimes some arcane processes that we have to follow, (so) that the decision points don’t line up in some of these things. We are going to work through those things and we are going to give this reintroduction effort a chance to succeed.”
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