Thursday, March 30, 2017

Feds want to ease jaguar protections to build border wall

While one branch of the U.S. government reviews a plan to bring back the endangered jaguar, another branch wants to waive legal protections for the species to build the border wall. This week, new Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke told a ranching advocacy group that U.S. Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly “will put forward a waiver on the border, which will allow me much more flexibility” in managing the jaguar there, according to E&E News, an environmental news service. Zinke’s talk to the Public Lands Council in Washington, D.C., didn’t elaborate on how that would happen. “Secretary Zinke is committed to carrying out the president’s vision for an immigration system that is lawful and includes border security,” Interior spokeswoman Heather Swift wrote in an email. Zinke’s comment Tuesday came eight days after the Fish and Wildlife Service took final public comments on a detailed jaguar recovery plan. The 508-page document proposes a complex blueprint of measures costing about $56 million over five years and $605 million over 50 years to help the jaguar recover from what many believe is a precarious state. Under the 2005 federal Real ID Act, the government has the right to formally waive restrictions under the Endangered Species Act and other environmental laws in pursuit of building border fencing. Homeland Security used that law to help it build about 650 miles of border fencing and walls during the 2000s. The jaguar does have legal protection in the U.S. in the form of the wildlife service’s formal designation of much of the Arizona-New Mexico border with the Mexican states of Sonora and Chihuahua as critical habitat for the large mammal. The jaguar is known to live in 19 countries including the U.S., but it is considered vulnerable to a wide range of threats including habitat destruction and illegal killing. Seven jaguars have been documented in the U.S. since 1996 — five in Southern Arizona and two in southwestern New Mexico, including one near the Arizona border. Two were photographed in Southern Arizona late last year...more

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