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39,000 acres proposed as Canada lynx habitat

WEDNESDAY, FEB. 25, 2009

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says that 39,000 acres in six states should be designated as critical habitat for Canada lynx, a secretive forest cat that feeds almost exclusively on snowshoe hares in boreal forests.

The critical habitat includes about 10,000 acres in the Northern Rockies, with a slice of Idaho’s Boundary County. Nearly 2,000 acres in Washington’s North Cascades are also proposed.

Lynx are an endangered species. Critical habitat identifies geographic areas with the features needed to support lynx populations.

The Fish and Wildlife Service had designated 1,841 acres of critical habitat for lynx in 2006. But that decision was overturned after allegations that Julie MacDonald, a deputy assistant secretary of the Interior, had interfered in the habitat designation. She resigned.

A critical habitat designation requires private landowners, under certain circumstances, to consult with the Fish and Wildlife Service if their actions might harm lynx habitat. The consulting requirement typically kicks in if the landowner’s action requires a federal permit.

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