Wildlife conservation groups are collaborating with a federal government agency to halt construction of the southern border wall by fudging science to claim that unimpeded trans-border corridors are essential to an “endangered species” with 99% of its population in Mexico. Under the plan, large areas of Arizona and New Mexico would be prohibited from erecting a border wall so that jaguars—which don’t even occupy the area—can roam back and forth between the two countries. More than ¾ million acres in Arizona and New Mexico would be designated as critical habitat for jaguars under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA), which specifically states that critical habitat can only be designated for the United States.
Judicial Watch obtained records from Arizona’s Game and Fish Department, local governments and one of the biologists fighting the effort to designate the area a “critical habitat” for jaguars. It’s been a years-long battle that started in 2012 when the Obama administration relaxed ESA requirements to make designation of critical habitat easer for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). This includes lowering scientific standards and essentially caving in to leftist groups. The result, according to biologist and attorney Dennis Parker, is more restrictions on private property, grazing, mineral exploration and development not to mention national security. Furthermore, no scientifically verifiable record of jaguar breeding exists in the area and only lone, transient male jaguars are occasionally and peripherally occurrent, Parker said. In a document addressed to USFWS, Arizona’s Game and Fish Department states that “habitat essential to the conservation of the jaguar does not exist in either Arizona or New Mexico under any scientifically credible definition of that term.”
One of the world’s leading big cat experts, Dr. Alan Rabinowitz, confirms that less than one percent of the jaguar habitat in the world is in the United States and that there’s nothing about the lands in the southwest U.S. that make them critical to the continued survival of the jaguar as a species. The renowned wildlife ecologist heads a nonprofit devoted to the conservation of 38 wild cat species and their ecosystems. Jaguars are among them and two Arizona municipalities—the city of Sierra Vista and Cochise County—that will be heavily impacted by the proposed federal measure are citing Rabinowitz’s work to halt the problematic jaguar recovery plan. Rabinowitz refers to the federal plan as “little more than smoke and mirrors” that uses assumption and speculation as fact to justify “defining critical habitat in the Unites States for a species which simply does not live in the United States and has not resided there as a population for at least half a century.” Furthermore, Rabinowitz says the jaguar south of the border is doing quite well and has genetic connectivity through designated landscape corridors.
If USFWS makes its scientifically flawed jaguar recovery plan an official agency policy it will cost American taxpayers some $607 million in the next five decades, records show. In a recent document to USFWS a coalition of counties and cities in Arizona and New Mexico as well as the Pima Natural Conservation District, remind the federal agency about the faulty science behind the proposed jaguar recovery plan. The group refers to it as the “radical departure from sound science, policy, Endangered Species Act interpretation and the clear and present danger to national and citizen security.” In this case, the ESA is being used to further a political agenda, Parker insists, adding that the supposed need for unimpeded trans-border corridors is based on opinion and value-laden beliefs rather than scientific information as the ESA actually requires. “All this junk science will become enshrined as science for the jaguar,” Parker said, adding that if USFWS adapts the jaguar recovery play as a policy it will affect everything from interstate highway travel to border security.
USFWS already determined years ago that no jurisdiction in the United States contains the features essential for the conservation of jaguars that required special management considerations and protection from the agency. “Because there are no areas or features essential to the conservation of the jaguar in the United States that meet the definition of critical habitat, designation of critical habitat for the jaguar is not beneficial,” the agency stated in a 2006 Federal Register notice. Nothing has changed to make that assessment any less factual, biologists interviewed by Judicial Watch affirm. They assure that land essential to the species is located south of the International Border between the United States and Mexico.
Two of the groups colluding with the feds to enact the jaguar recovery plan are the Center for Biological Diversity and Defenders of Wildlife. The Center for Biological Diversity denounces “large-scale construction of walls and other infrastructure that disrupt lives and divide the landscape” along the southern border. Defenders of Wildlife is currently pushing to introduce up to 250 jaguars to Arizona in response to the construction of a border wall. The group is the force behind the government’s jaguar recovery plan and asserts it’s critical to “maintain movement corridors” between the U.S. and Mexico. To make its case, Defenders of Wildlife claims that two male jaguars, dubbed Macho B and El Jefe, have recently wandered into the mountains of southern Arizona and New Mexico. “Natural reappearances like these lend new urgency for actions to re-establish a reproducing population of jaguars that includes contiguous habitat in both the United States and Mexico,” the group says.
Tom Fitton is president of Judicial Watch.