Ruth Rudner
Ruth Rudner

David Muench's National Parks


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Earlier this month, after a great deal of effort on the part of several conservation organizations, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced its decision to designate habitat critical to the survival of the jaguar, and to develop a long-term recovery plan for this endangered animal.

Although the decision to create a recovery plan was mandated 14 years ago, when the jaguar was listed as endangered, the Service decided in 1997 and again in 2006 that designating critical habitat was “not prudent.” This reversal strikes me as monumental, acknowledging as it does the jaguar’s right to life, and the necessity of habitat to support that life. 

Every animal on earth has a right to exist.  More.  Every animal’s existence is a necessity for the health of the earth.  Only when an ecosystem’s full component of animals live within their historical habitat is the earth in balance.  That means predators, prey, vegetation that sustains that prey, and clean water for us all. 

Every time we act to restore decimated populations of the magnificent animals originally part of the American landscape, we restore a part of our own heritage.  Evolving as a nation on a continent where wildlife and wildland lived in balance, we have an obligation to restore what we have destroyed.  America has land enough to share.  In designating habitat critical to the survival of the jaguar, and developing a long-term recovery plan for this animal – one as American as the grizzly bear, the bald eagle and the buffalo – the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service acknowledges the necessity of wildness for a healthy land.

Until the 1900s, jaguars ranged from California to Louisiana.  But by 1997 sightings of the largest cat in the Americas (third largest in the world –after lions and tigers) were limited to southwestern New Mexico and southeastern Arizona.  (The last known jaguar in the U.S.—Macho B—was killed last year in a bungled capture attempt by wildlife agencies.  Macho B had roamed the wildlands of southern Arizona for at least 13 years, elusive, but known.)  Even in Latin America, the only place they now live, jaguar habitat is being destroyed to accommodate development.  A stepped up protection of jaguar migration corridors between the U.S. and Mexico must be a part of Fish & Wildlife’s plan.  We may be—in the U.S.—touchy about that border, but wildlife does not recognize borders. (There are many things we can learn from wildlife).

It’s good to see the Fish & Wildlife Service pull together a plan based on science rather than politics, but, to give the jaguar a fighting chance, it will be even better to see it all happen as quickly as possible.   

For more information about jaguars, go to the Defenders of Wildlife website. 


Obviously, I did not begin the blog I announced in December.  Will I ever?  Maybe.

Copyright © 2010 Ruth Rudner