Canadian lynx (photo by USFWS).

Missing lynx: Advocates challenge Feds’ refusal to prepare recovery plan

For Immediate Release
December 1, 2020

Nick Cady, Cascadia Wildlands, 314-482-3746,

Today, a coalition of conservation organizations filed a complaint in federal court challenging the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (the Service’s) decision to forgo recovery planning for threatened Canada lynx.

Recovery plans are important tools required by the Endangered Species Act, often referred to as the “roadmap” for conservation because they spell out what the agency needs to do to recover a species and how best to do it. Recovery plans also include metrics that must be met before the Service may deem a species recovered.

In 2013, conservation organizations sued the Service for failing to prepare a recovery plan for threatened lynx, following nearly 14 years of delay. The court agreed and directed the agency to prepare a recovery plan by January 2018.

A month before the January 2018 deadline, however, the Service decided to forgo preparing a recovery plan on the theory that lynx are already “recovered” and no longer threatened in the contiguous U.S. The Service said it would therefore focus its time and energy on delisting and removing protections for the species, rather than recovery planning.

“The Trump Administration is playing political games with iconic species that are in serious risk of extinction,” said Nick Cady with Cascadia Wildlands. “The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s own scientists determined lynx were not recovered and that proactive efforts are needed to curb significant, ongoing habitat loss from climate change and related warming and longer fire seasons. The conservation of endangered species used to enjoy widespread bipartisan support, and recovery decisions were rooted in science.  It looks like nothing is sacred anymore, and lynx are one of many species paying the price.”


Lynx and their habitat are threatened by climate change, wildfires, logging, development, motorized access and trapping, which disturb and fragment the landscape. Lynx rely heavily on snowshoe hare, and like their preferred prey, are specially adapted to living in mature boreal forests with dense cover and deep snowpack. Climate change may also increase hare predation from other species, resulting in increased competition and displacement of lynx.

Since designating Canada lynx as threatened under the Endangered Species Act 20 years ago in 2000, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has gone to extraordinary lengths to deny protections to the big cat. The agency had to be sued to list the species, amend the species’ listing status (to cover all of its range in the contiguous United States), prepare a recovery plan, and to designate critical habitat. WELC litigation prompted many of these actions.