Investigating Payment for Ecosystem Services as an Approach to Jaguar Conservation in the Southwestern United States

Project Summary

In 2014, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), per the requirements of the Endangered SpeciesAct, officially designated jaguar critical habitat in southern Arizona and southwestern New Mexico (seemap below).

Many ranchers in the area who rely on public lands grazing allotments are uncertain about the impact ofthe designation on their operations.

Beginning in late 2014, and with funding from the USFWS, our project team has interviewed andsurveyed ranchers across the region -- including hosting several workshops -- to learn about ranchers'opinions and attitudes towards the designation.

As a result, we have produced documents and materials (see list below) to provide information on whatcritical habitat does and does not do, and how ranchers may be able to use conservation incentives toimplement conservation practices on their ranches.


Brochure

Protecting Habitat & Conserving Ranches on Rangelands in the Southwest U.S.
(for double-sided printing | PDF 1.2mb)

Protecting Habitat & Conserving Ranches on Rangelands in the Southwest U.S.
(for single-sided printing | (PDF 1.2mb) 


Peer-reviewed Publications

The effects of Federal policies on rangeland ecosystem services in the Southwestern United States.
Aaron M Lien, Jenny L Neeley, George B Ruyle, & Laura López-Hoffman. 2015. Rangelands 37(4):152-157.

Jaguar critical habitat designation causes concern for Southwestern ranchers. CM Svancara, AM Lien, W Vanasco, L López-Hoffma, S Bona, & G Ruyle. 2015. Rangelands 37(4):144-151.

Additional research publications in preparation.



Map of Jaguar Critical Habitat in the Southwestern United States
Source: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (Federal Register, Mar 5, 2014)


Project Description

Background

In 1996, an Arizona hunter encountered something unexpected near the Arizona-New Mexico border. He found himself gazing at a jaguar (Panthera onca). His was the first publicly reported sighting of a jaguar north of the U.S.-Mexico border in over a decade. This sighting came as an ongoing debate was emerging about conservation and protection of jaguar habitat in the United States.

In 2014, after almost two decades of lawsuits and public debate, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officially designated jaguar critical habitat as defined by the Endangered Species Act. Critical habitat is an area determined by the USFWS to be essential to the recovery or persistence of an endangered species.

The designation primarily pertains to public lands, but also can have an impact on private lands in situations where the federal government is providing funding or permits.

Critical Habitat Designation

Designation of critical habitat can be an important step in restoring a species. The region of southern Arizona and southwestern New Mexico, where the jaguar’s designated critical habitat is located (see map above), is on the northern edge of the jaguar’s range. Historical records indicate there may have been a breeding population in southern Arizona as recently as the early 1960s, and that the animals once ranged as far north as the Grand Canyon. However, the jaguar’s critical habitat designation is also controversial: the habitat area covers approximately 850,000 acres in southern Arizona and southwestern New Mexico. Ranchers in the region rely on the bulk of this land -- both public and private -- for cattle grazing. Many ranchers are uncertain about the impact of critical habitat on their grazing operations.

Payment for Ecosystem Services

A conservation incentives program that addresses jaguar habitat may also provide an opportunity to conserve a wide range of ecosystem services – the benefits we receive from nature like clean water and productive soils. In Arizona and New Mexico, healthy rangelands are what provide habitat for jaguars. An incentives program could help ranchers achieve long-term rangeland health and sustainability goals, while also benefiting jaguars and other wildlife.

Project Activities and Outcomes

With funding from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, our project team has:

- conducted interviews, a survey, and workshops with ranchers to learn about their opinions and attitudes towards the designation of Critical Habitat for the jaguar in southern Arizona and southwestern New Mexico. We also asked ranchers about their opinions about land and habitat conservation in general and found that there is a strong conservation ethic in the ranching community

- developed informational materials for the general public about jaguar Critical Habitat , conservation incentive programs, federal land management policies and other topics to provide information on what critical habitat does and does not do, and how ranchers may be able to use conservation incentives to implement conservation practices on their ranches. These materials are available on this website

- investigated the potential for developing an incentive-based approach to jaguar habitat conservation and other land and habitat conservation activities in the southwest. In our survey and workshops we found significant interest and also a healthy skepticism of incentive-based approaches to conservation.


For more information

Contact Aaron Lien, Senior Researcher, UA Jaguar Habitat Project, alien@email.arizona.edu or (520) 626-9868.

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