Legal Alert - Feds Designate Huge Swath of Southern Arizona for Jaguar Conservation
by Jim P. Allen
Mining projects in the mountains of Southern Arizona now face a new regulatory hurdle: persuading federal regulators that their proposed operations will not degrade the “critical habitat” of Mexican Jaguars who may wander into the area. On March 5, 2014, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) issued its final decision under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) to identify 764,207 acres (1194 square miles) of federal, state and private land as habitat for the rare jaguar. For the Arizona mining industry, virtually every project within the designated area will receive heightened scrutiny to assure that it will not adversely affect the land’s value as habitat. Even on state or private land, any required federal permit (such as a Section 404 wetlands permit) will subject the project to mandatory consultation with the FWS to prevent habitat degradation.