By Sue Krentz And Judy Keeler
Border Area Ranchers
Sunday, February 21, 2010
On Feb. 18, 2009, biologists, conducting a cougar and bear study in southern Arizona, were excited when Macho B, a jaguar repeatedly photographed over a 13-year period, was found in one of their traps.
One of the highest research priorities of the Arizona/New Mexico Jaguar Conservation Team was to capture and radio-collar a jaguar wandering into the United States from Mexico in order to get detailed information on the animal's habitat use and movement patterns.
Macho B, estimated to be about 15 years old, was fitted with a tracking collar and released back into the wild.
Biologists had to make the sad decision to euthanize the jaguar when, 10 days after his release, he began to show signs of weakening.
After his unfortunate demise, protests were staged, articles were written, and another lawsuit was filed by the Center for Biological Diversity.
Macho B's death was a disappointment to everyone, but to say, in some media reports, the Team failed to include all stakeholders, failed to make progress on many of its goals, and failed to improve conservation of jaguars is disingenuous.
In an effort to involve all affected stakeholders, the Jaguar Conservation Team organized in March 1997. It was a revolutionary concept, meant to involve all interest groups, including the New Mexico and Arizona game and fish and state land departments; the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, Forest Service, National Park Service and Fish and Wildlife Service. It also included several counties and an assortment of conservation organizations and ranchers.
When the jaguar was listed as endangered in the United States, little was known about jaguar biology, population trends, distribution, abundance, demographics or genetics.
The conservation team's task was to develop a strategy to protect jaguars that might wander into the borderlands.
In October 1997, a voluntary Jaguar Scientific Advisory Group, consisting of wildlife biologists well known for their jaguar research, was enlisted to help provide the most current information and best available science.
After studying big cats for more than two decades, Alan Rabinowitz, a leading jaguar authority and an advisory group member, concluded there "was no area in the Southwestern United States that was critical for the survival of the jaguar ... since the more open, dry habitats of the southwest are marginal for the jaguar in terms of water, cover and prey density."
Most biologists agreed that, "if there had been a resident breeding population of jaguars in the U.S. in the recent past, it was probably a very small population, short-lived, and not viable."
The conservation team learned the nearest core population of jaguars was at the confluence of three rivers in Mexico, about 135 miles south of Douglas, Ariz. The biologists believed this population was in imminent danger and struggling to survive.
In an effort to protect jaguars wandering into New Mexico and Arizona, legislation was passed in both states to comply with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service ruling that the primary threat to jaguars in the United States was illegal killing. This legislation was supported by the state wildlife agencies and the ranching community.
In 2008, in an effort to protect jaguar habitat in Mexico, Fish and Wildlife provided a matching grant of $147,334.25 to the Northern Jaguar Project to purchase a 35,000-acre ranch in Mexico.
Regardless of these local efforts, a few radical conservation organizations seemed to have another agenda. It appeared their goal was to force critical habitat in the United States.
With the recent determination by Fish and Wildlife that critical habitat for jaguars is now prudent, the agency has no choice but appoint a federal recovery team, map "critical habitat" and develop a formal recovery plan which will include a regulatory framework that will force compliance upon the people who live and work in these areas.
No more hidden agendas! The plan behind the lawsuits, protests and media coverage is the Wildlands Network, a system of wildlife reserves with corridors running between.
The center's lawsuits are not meant to protect jaguars, wolves, polar bears, bats or any other "endangered" species. These animals are just the surrogates to implement the "network." The Endangered Species Act is their tool and the citizen's lawsuit provision is the means by which radical "conservation" organizations will continue to hammer the economies of the small, rural communities that must live under their "rewilding" scheme.
The threats, extreme ultimatums and lawsuits do nothing to protect endangered species, or their habitat. The perpetual litigation benefits only a few radical organizations. It continues, however, to frustrate the small, rural communities that must live under their threats.
Sue Krentz and her husband Rob ranch in the Chiricahua Mountains in Southeast Arizona. Judy Keeler and her husband Murray ranch in the Peloncillo Mountains in Southwest New Mexico. Both were members of the Jaguar Conservation Team for 13 years.
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