Canada Lynx

A Canada lynx is released in Schoolcraft County in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula on April 12, 2019.

The Canada lynx, which has been documented in the North Cascades, will remain listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, according to a settlement agreement filed Friday in U.S. District Court.

“This is a victory for lynx, science, and for everyone who values healthy ecosystems,” Western Environmental Law Center attorney Matthew Bishop said in a news release about the settlement agreement. “Now is ... time to focus on recovery planning and designating critical habitat.”

The Western Environmental Law Center filed the lawsuit Dec. 1, 2020, on behalf of seven nonprofit conservation groups interested in seeing the lynx preserved.

The lynx was listed as threatened in 2000, but the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service never wrote a recovery plan for the species, and in December 2017 said it would instead propose delisting it.

The lawsuit argued that there is no scientific evidence the species has recovered and accused the Fish and Wildlife Service of violating the Endangered Species Act.

In the settlement filed Friday, the Fish and Wildlife Service agreed to draft a recovery plan for the lynx by Dec. 1, 2023, and to finalize that plan within a year after that.

The lynx is an elusive animal that even regional wildlife researchers get few glimpses of.

While the staff of the North Cascades Institute have documented at least one lynx near the organization’s Environmental Learning Center at Diablo Lake during winter, North Cascades National Park Service Complex Wildlife Biologist Jason Ransom said he’s never seen one of the big cats in the area. He has only seen a lynx at Denali National Park in Alaska.

Dave Werntz of the nonprofit Conservation Northwest said he’s only heard of others’ encounters with lynx, including when an organization board member saw one on the eastern slopes of the North Cascades and when Werntz’s wife saw one in Eastern Washington.

“It’s pretty rare to see them,” Werntz said, adding that he’s glad to see federal protections maintained for the species. “Lynx need the help, especially as climate change bears down.”

The groups leading the lawsuit, as well as Fish and Wildlife Service documents published prior to 2017, say climate change is a significant concern for lynx.

The species and its primary prey, the snowshoe hare, rely on mountain snowpack habitat, which is declining as global temperatures warm.

“Lynx and snowshoe hares only persist in areas with long winters and persistent deep snow,” the lawsuit states.

— Reporter Kimberly Cauvel: 360-416-2199, kcauvel@skagitpublishing.com, Twitter: @Kimberly_SVH, Facebook.com/bykimberlycauvel

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