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Where the Lynx Are?

By Kim Todd

The number of breeding lynx populations in the continental United States can be counted on one hand. Mountain ranges and valleys with recent sightings are equally rare. Yet these areas continue to be compromised by logging, mining, and off-road vehicles. Here’s a look at some of the lynx habitat the Sierra Club is trying to save.

The Cabinet-Yaak Ecosystem: Not only lynx, but grizzlies, wolves, fishers, and wolverines all take refuge under the Cabinet-Yaak ecosystem’s 500-year-old trees. But this shelter is being stripped away. The Yaak Mountains in the northwest corner of Montana continue to be heavily clearcut. In addition, the American Smelting and Refining Company (ASARCO), a corporation with a legacy of 40 Superfund sites, has proposed a copper and silver mine that would tunnel under a portion of the Cabinet Mountains that is designated wilderness.

Okanogan National Forest: Along with Montana, Okanogan County in Washington State represents some of the best hope for the future of the species in the Lower 48. Lynx find dens in the downed wood and complex root systems of the boreal forest, but clearcuts and other logging increasingly obstruct a much-needed corridor to healthy populations in British Columbia. The Meadows, a group of roadless areas in Okanogan National Forest marked by lush valleys and lodgepole pine, is a prime candidate for wilderness protection.

Maine’s North Woods: For a long time, no one was sure if lynx in Maine’s North Woods were breeding or just passing through, but two kittens turned up in 1999, and last spring scientists found 22 near the Musquacook Lakes. Timber companies own much of the forest in northern Maine, and recently they’ve stepped up the pace of logging; local operators are selling to larger companies and real estate developers, making the future of this habitat uncertain.

In addition to areas with established populations, vacant lynx habitat needs protection. This January, the Sierra Club and other environmental groups won a court battle, with the judge calling on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to designate critical habitat for the lynx–something that should have been done years ago–and to reconsider the lynx’s status in the Northeast, Great Lakes, and southern Rockies.

On the web: For more information and ways to take action on the Meadows roadless areas and the Cabinet-Yaak ecosystem, go to the Sierra Club’s Lewis and Clark site at www.sierraclub.org/lewisandclark. For more information about Maine’s North Woods, go to www.maine.sierraclub.org.


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