BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — U.S. officials proposed a $31 million recovery plan for Canada lynx on Friday in a bid to help the animals that scientists say could be wiped out in parts of the contiguous U.S. by the end of the century.
Populations of the medium-sized wildcats in New Hampshire, Maine and Washington state are most at risk, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The recovery plan says protecting 95% of current lynx habitat in the lower 48 states in coming decades would help the species remain viable. And it suggests lynx could be moved into the Yellowstone region of Montana, Wyoming and Idaho — an area they don't currently occupy.
There are roughly 1,100 lynx in the contiguous U.S., spread across five populations with the largest concentrations in the northeastern U.S. and northern Rockies. Most areas suitable for lynx are in Alaska and Canada.
Those numbers are expected to plummet in some areas, and the proposal would aim for a minimum contiguous U.S. population of a combined 875 lynx over a 20-year period across the five populations, including 400 in the northeast and 200 in the northern Rockies.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service faces a November 2024 deadline to draft a related plan to protect land where lynx are found.
U.S. government biologists first predicted in 2016 that some lynx populations could disappear by 2100.