In legal mire over lynx, judge lets cat out of the bog

By Gary Gerhardt, Rocky Mountain News

March 28, 2003

Colorado - A federal judge on Thursday cleared the way for Colorado wildlife officials to release 32 additional Canadian lynx after dismissing a lawsuit.

U.S. District Judge Clarence Brimmer dismissed the case with prejudice, saying the Mountain States Legal Foundation contentions were based on speculation.

Mountain States filed the lawsuit in January, saying the federal government should have required an environmental review of the restoration program.

The legal foundation argued that releasing more lynx would increase the risk of forest fires as well as decrease the availability of water by decreasing timber harvesting and forest thinning to protect animal habitat.Rob Edward of Sinapu, a conservation group that filed a brief in support of the return of lynx, said, "The judge couldn't see how there was a risk between lynx and wildfires."

Wildlife officials plan to begin releasing more lynx next week.

"We were authorized 50 lynx this year, but trappers in Manitoba were hampered by severe weather and we're happy to have 32," said Rick Kahn of the Colorado Division of Wildlife.

"Next Thursday, we'll release the first four, then continue until about April 24 to release the others, until we've made a ring around the core area where most of the 96 lynx released in 1999 and 2000 still can be found."

He said they still are tracking 32 of the radio-collared animals, which have remained in the San Juan and Rio Grande national forest areas.

It is hoped the introduction of more lynx will keep the core density high so males and females procreate and start a self-sustaining population in the state.


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