United States of America
In February 2009, Defendant, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (the "Service" or "FWS"), designated approximately 39,000 square miles of critical habitat for the United States distinct population segment of the Canada lynx (Lynx canadensis). The recovery habitat included identified areas in the states of Maine, Minnesota, Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, and Washington. Plaintiffs, four environmental organizations, contested the Services designation in three respects, arguing that, as required by the Endangered Species Act ("ESA"), the Service: (1) arbitrarily failed to designate occupied critical habitat in certain national forests in Montana and Idaho, as well as in Colorado entirely; (2) arbitrarily failed to designate any unoccupied critical habitat whatsoever; and (3) failed to base its decision on the "best scientific data available". Regarding the Services designation of occupied critical habitat, the court concluded that the FWS arbitrarily excluded areas occupied by lynx in Idaho and Montana by "treat[ing] evidence of reproduction as a litmus test rather than as a relevant factor to consider." Furthermore, the court held that the FWS failed to properly determine whether areas occupied by the lynx in Colorado possess the attributes essential to the conservation of the species. Secondly, regarding the Services decision to not designate any unoccupied critical habitat, including land to be used for linkage and travel corridors, the court concluded that the Service did not act unreasonably in rendering its decision. Finally, concerning the contention that the FWS failed to base its decision on the "best scientific data available," the court disagreed and rejected each of Plaintiffs arguments. Accordingly, in order to preserve the previously established 39,000-mile critical habitat for the Canadian lynx, the court kept in place the Services February 2009 critical habitat designation, pending a new final ruling consistent with the aforementioned findings made by the United States District Court for the District of Montana.