Lion and Bear Snaring Project: Part 3
So why wasn’t an EAC done? AZGFD personnel were aware of the history of jaguar presence when snares were first activated for the project by McCain (whom also happened to be the biologist for the jaguar detection project on which I worked). AZGFD personnel and USFWS “jaguar lead” biologist, Erin Fernandez, were all made aware by McCain (through his duties as biologist for jaguar project) about Macho B’s presence and most of these people were aware that Macho B had been documented near the snares and actually on the snare trap line. Several AZGFD employees (including Ms. O’Brien) and Ms. Fernandez were even forwarded and blind copied on emails from a vet that McCain and Smith had gone to seeking drug advice and dosage for a jaguar capture. There was even a three month lull in the snaring project when the field team was awaiting more telemetry collars in which an EAC could have been initiated. Ms. Fernandez also could have taken this opportunity to ask AZGFD why she had not received a request for a Section 7 consultation. Section 7’s were apart of her job and she was the Jaguar Lead. It might not have been her legal responsibility to seek out AZGFD on this topic but it was certainly her professional one since she had knowledge of Macho B’s presence in the snaring area.
Ms. O’Brien thought the ultimate responsibility for completing an EAC was her own, and stated “guidance on EA process was lacking in her department from the Habitat Branch of the AZGFD that oversees the EA process.” She further stated, “she has to go to the Habitat Branch and inform them of the project to initiate an EA process. These matters put a hold on all snaring activities by AZGFD because of possible impacts to other endangered wildlife.” Yet, she goes on to say she is “unclear of the EA checklist process” and the “Wildlife Management Division has recognized that’s an area of not having good guidance.”
An Ea was discussed internally in AZGFD “in case we catch one with spots” but there was never a follow through into completing one.
If AZGFD and USFWS are legally responsible for the conservation and protection of all species found in Arizona, yet they cannot complete legally mandated checklists, how is the public to trust them? It is not like these agencies, laws, and checklists were born yesterday. They’ve been around for decades. What is the effect of this lack of trust (if it exists) on the agencies, the public, and the wildlife and habitats of Arizona? Has AZGFD completed an EAC and initiated a Section 7 consultation with USFWS for the lion and bear snaring project yet? AZGFD has maintained that they plan to continue on with the snaring project and a new jaguar was recently documented in southern Arizona.