May 20, 2013 - The Associated PressBILLINGS, Mont. -- A federal judge has ordered the U.S. Forest Service to consult with wildlife officials to ensure the agency takes adequate measures to protect Canada lynx in portions of Montana, Wyoming and Idaho.
U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen said in Thursday's order that the Forest Service violated federal regulations by not revising its management plans for 11 national forests to take lynx habitat into consideration.
Canada lynx are a threatened species believed to number in the hundreds in the continental U.S.
In 2009, the Forest Service designated 39,000 square miles across the U.S. as critical habitat for the rarely seen predator, which is roughly the size of a bobcat and feeds primarily on snowshoe hares.
Critical habitat designations can determine what activities are allowed on forest land.
Plaintiffs from the Cottonwood Environmental Law Center said Christensen's ruling will ensure adequate plans are in place to protect lynx across 10 million acres.
Forest Service spokesman Phil Sammon says agency attorneys are reviewing the ruling to determine the scope of its impact.
The government is being sued separately to come up with a recovery plan for lynx, which were listed as threatened in 2000.
The Canada lynx is a medium-sized cat about three feel long, with large paws and a short tail with a black tip. The coat is greyish in the winter changing to reddish brown in the summer with long, black- tipped ear tufts, which make them easy to distinguish.
It is an elusive and shy species that is mainly active during the night
Normally fairly solitary, lynx are found in high elevation boreal forests with snowshoe hares, which are their main prey, and areas with deep winter snow are the prime habitat for the cats.
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