Early this year the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed delisting the wolf from protection by the Endangered Species Act in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming.

The agency does this when it deems that wolf populations are above the minimum threshold for recovery. Once the delisting takes place, the management of wolves is turned over to the respective states, where jurisdiction for wildlife management rightfully belongs.

In Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin, wolves already have been removed from the ESA. Predictably, a coalition of animal rights groups, including the Humane Society of the United States and the Animal Protection Institute, has brought a lawsuit against USFWS in an attempt to force the federal government to put wolves back on the ESA in these three states.

In Maine, these same animal rights groups are using the Canada lynx, which is federally listed as an endangered species, as a legal lever to force the abolishment of all forms of trapping in the Pine Tree State.

A suit is pending in Bangor Federal Court, with the plaintiffs arguing that Maine’s trapping program poses an “incidental-take” (accidental trapping) threat to our Northwoods populations of Canada lynx. In fact, it was the mere threat of a lawsuit that convinced the Maine’s attorney general to advise the Fish and Wildlife commissioner to cancel Maine’s coyote control management system four years ago.

Only one conclusion can be drawn here. The Endangered Species Act, for all the good it is supposed to do, has been used and abused by this country’s animal-rights extremists. So far, the lynx connection, if you trace it back, has been an additive factor in the decline of deer populations in Eastern and Northern Maine. Furthermore, it could spell the end of all forms of trapping in Maine if a federal judge rules against the state.

In no small measure, the ESA is the seminal culprit that has the legal potential to end, not only recreational trapping in Maine, but most forms of hunting as well.

What is the short-term solution? Simple, really. Remove or delist the Canada lynx from endangered species protection in Maine. Like the wolf of the West, the Canada lynx are well above the minimal thresholds for recovery. According to USFWS spokesman Mark McCollough, Maine’s Canada lynx population numbers between 500 and 1,000. Anecdotal reports from trappers and woodsmen argue that, in a number of townships in Northern Maine, there are more lynx than there are white-tailed deer.

Taking lynx off the Federal list does not mean that these critters are suddenly thrust into harm’s way. The state, which provided the feds with most of its field research data in the first place, would continue to manage and protect these big-footed cats. When asked what would be necessary to delist the lynx, McCollough indicated that the process was under way. And here is the ultimate irony: McCollough’s progress on the lynx recovery plan has been delayed by work he has been required to do in preparation for litigation brought against USFWS by these animal rights groups.

“If it hadn’t been for these other diversions, I’d have had the Lynx Final Recovery Plan written by now,” McCollough said.

Ralph Cunningham, President of Safari Club International, nailed it when he said, “It is time for animal rights groups to acknowledge that the ESA was never intended to be a tool for permanently listing species.”

V. Paul Reynolds is editor of the Northwoods Sporting Journal. He is also a Maine Guide, co-host of a weekly radio program “Maine Outdoors” heard Sundays at 7 p.m. on The Voice of Maine News-Talk Network (WVOM-FM 103.9, WCME-FM 96.7) and former information officer for the Maine Dept. of Fish and Wildlife. His e-mail address is [email protected]

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