I posted sometime back about the controversy over designating critical habitat for the Jaguar in the southwestern US. The Jaguar has been listed as endangered for decades, and the Endangered Species Act requires designating critical habitat for all endangered species. But the Fish and Wildlife Service refrained from designating habitat on the grounds that we don’t have any jaguars. Occasionally one comes over the border, but the vital habitat needed for preserving the species from extinction is clearly south of our border.
Well, it is done. Over seven-hundred-thousand acres in Arizona and New Mexico are now to be managed as Jaguar habitat. What will this mean in practice? Can the Jaguar serve as an effective umbrella species in absentia? Will this inevitably lead to a reintroduction attempt? And is that good or bad?
The ecological benefits of predator restoration are immense. And the aesthetic value of wilderness is completely transformed by the presence of things that can kill you–the landscape goes from serene to sublime. Indeed, the very word wilderness comes from the Old English wildeor, meaning “wild beast.” But are there limits? Are there predators just too dangerous to keep around? What do you think?