The only jaguars that you are likely to find today in New Mexico are at this dealership in Albuquerque. But that didn’t stop the federal government from designating tens of thousands of acres in Hidalgo County, in the southwestern corner of the state, as critical habitat for the endangered big cat whose primary habitat is the jungles and swamps of central and south America.
The New Mexico critical habitat designation, which includes tens of thousands of acres of the Coronado National Forest, is based solely on the sighting of at most two jaguars over the past four decades. There are no breeding pairs or evidence of resident jaguars in the state. The federal government’s own experts agree that recovery of jaguars depends on actions taken in other countries, not in New Mexico.
But designating areas like a fire-prone National Forest as critical habitat for an animal that isn’t there will impede important fire risk reduction projects in New Mexico. This increases the likelihood of catastrophic wildfire and devastation to people, property, natural resources, and other wildlife. The designation will also impede development of important community infrastructure like road improvements and pipelines, and the development of range improvements for cattle ranches that are important to the local community and economy.
Pacific Legal Foundation sued the federal government this week to overturn the designation of jaguar habitat in New Mexico, on behalf of the New Mexico Farm & Livestock Bureau, the New Mexico Cattle Growers Association, and the New Mexico Federal Lands Council. These organizations are asking the court to set aside the government’s harmful habitat designation, because New Mexico has not been occupied by jaguars in many decades, and is not essential to the future of jaguar recovery.
Chad Smith, CEO of the New Mexico Farm & Livestock Bureau, has this to say:
Food producers in New Mexico are under the gun as the federal government continues to endanger their livelihood. The designation of tens of thousands of acres of prime New Mexico ranch lands as critical habitat for endangered jaguars is one more example of how endangered species have taken precedence over people. We must restore balance, and members of the New Mexico Farm & Livestock Bureau ask the federal government to ensure a successful future for ranchers in Southern New Mexico by overturning the designation of jaguar habitat.