The Investigation: Erin Fernandez, Part 3
Concerning permits, Fernandez was not clear about AZGFD’s authority to capture a jaguar. At first she told the USFWS SAs that AZGFD was permitted for an intentional and an incidental capture then later she said she was unsure if AZGFD was authorized for intentional take. Fernandez also stated she didn’t know, “if the guidelines for incidental capture were ever reviewed by USFWS.” Fernandez was aware jaguars were not listed on the current (2009) AZGFD endangered species permit from USFWS and that they (AZGFD) had requested through an email that the jaguar be covered on the Section 6 agreement instead. Fernandez stated, “I don’t really understand the Section 6 (of the Endangered Species Act).” Fernandez concluded, ” I think… that, to get a full interpretation of how all this works for the jaguar, we almost need like a Solicitor’s opinion or something.”
Regarding the AZGFD snaring project, Fernandez said she was not aware of the specific locations of the AZGFD’s snaring efforts. This is false as she was given specifics by AZGFD tech, McCain and also had knowledge that a hunter had killed one of the collared lions in the Atascosas and AZGFD was attempting to collar another animal in the same area. She had also been notified of Macho B’s latest detections which included track and photo documentation of his presence in the snaring area. See previous blog post, The Investigation: Erin Fernandez, Part 2.
Fernandez did advocate collaring a jaguar and was initially excited about Macho B’s capture. She emailed McCain on 2-20-09, “… Congratulations on the capture of Macho B!!! Such exciting news!” But Fernandez told the SAs, “I think that I wouldn’t have supported the capture of Macho B, given his advanced age.”
With regard to her not providing pertinent emails for the investigation Fernandez responded: “Yeah, I just don’t recall getting that (emails) and I didn’t know anything about this jaguar capture. I was in no way involved in the planning (inaudible), and that’s why I didn’t share that information.” With regard to not providing or alerting the SAs to emails Dr. Aguilar blind copied her on alerting her to AZGFD techs, McCain and Smith inquiring about proper drug and dosage advice for a jaguar capture, Fernandez again stated she didn’t remember those emails and she would, “cursorily take a look at and then file (emails), because the workload doesn’t necessarily allow me to look through every email thoroughly.”
When Fernandez was asked about her knowledge that Macho B could possibly be captured during the AZGFD snaring project she stated: “… I did not connect the dots in my mind… and that’s why I feel really bad, like I should have connected those dots because, yeah, we did know where Macho B was (inaudible) and we did know in general that people were out there doing the snaring… But, you know, I wasn’t the only one that knew about that, but being Jaguar Lead, I guess I should have had responsibility of at least notifying people that these two studies were occurring simultaneously, or that Macho B was potentially in the area where they were conducting these other studies.” Fernandez admitted she had been negligent.
Fernandez also stated she had not been very engaged in jaguar work, that it was a “peripheral” duty and a “low priority” for the Ecological Services office. She also said,”her responsibilities as the Jaguar Lead had not been explained to her” and that the jaguar is “really a state-managed species.”
Fernandez and others in her office were unaware that the AZGFD snaring project was funded with federal monies supplied through Federal Aid. This “federal nexus” required a Section 7 consultation which did not occur. Fernandez is responsible for Section 7 consultations but not responsible for initiating them (more on this in future post).
According to Fernandez, she contacted Terry Johnson (AZGFD Endangered Species Coordinator) and Todd Atwood (AZGFD), early in 2008, to discuss what to do if a jaguar or ocelot was treed during the AZGFD snaring project. Johnson’s response to her was that it would be discussed internally at AZGFD. Fernandez said she tried to follow up on the discussion but nothing ever came of it. In the OIG report and during the USFWS investigation, Fernandez stated she was “intimidated by Johnson and the feeling that the AZGFD could do whatever it wanted in Arizona.”
To me, Fernandez, is just one of several examples of why designating critical habitat for the jaguar is a waste of time and effort. Forgetting the legalities for a moment, even if all of the U.S. was considered critical habitat for jaguars who is going to protect the jaguar from the agencies and the people they employ in jaguar conservation? Both AZGFD and USFWS have proven they are unwilling and/or incapable of safely leading the way in jaguar conservation. In addition, the critical habitat plan that has been drafted is not for the jaguar species that currently exists in reality, the one that uses travel corridors on land such as arroyos, to get from one mountain range to another, but for the yet, undiscovered “flying jaguar” that can sail through the air from one protected mountain to another.