CHEYENNE, Wyo. - Six environmental groups announced Monday they have filed a motion to intervene in a lawsuit filed by snowmobilers challenging the federal government's designation of land in six states as critical habitat for Canada lynx.
The groups want to make sure U.S. District Judge Clarence Brimmer in Cheyenne gets all the information he needs and doesn't hear just one side of the case, said Tim Preso, an attorney for the groups.
"The critical habitat designation that's being challenged was a very important step in trying to ensure the survival of the lynx, but also to allow for the recovery of the lynx," said Preso, with Earthjustice. "We want to ensure that that critical habitat designation can do its work."
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in February designated 39,000 square miles in six states - Idaho, Maine, Minnesota, Montana, Washington and Wyoming - as critical habitat for the threatened Canada lynx. The designation was a substantial increase from the 1,850 square miles of previously designated lynx habitat in three states.
The Wyoming State Snowmobile Association and Washington State Snowmobile Association sued the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over the expanded designation, saying it threatened to put some areas off-limits to snowmobiling.
Matt Mead, spokesman for the Washington snowmobilers' group, said environmentalists have been looking to the lynx habitat designation to do away with motorized recreation in a large area.
"They see this as a tool to get there," Mead said Monday. "We don't agree."
The groups seeking to intervene are Defenders of Wildlife, Center for Biological Diversity, Conservation Northwest, Friends of the Wild Swan, Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance and the Lands Council.
Separately, four environmental groups filed suit in U.S. District Court in Missoula, Mont., in May, saying not enough lynx habitat was designated. The Sierra Club, Alliance for the Wild Rockies, Native Ecosystems Council and Center for Native Ecosystems said more designated habitat is needed in Colorado, western Montana and eastern Idaho.