Jaguar Habitat Protection Proposed for N.M., Ariz.

ALBUQUERQUE (AP) — Federal wildlife officials are proposing to designate more than 1,300 square miles in New Mexico and Arizona as critical habitat for the jaguar.

The largest cat native to the Western hemisphere, the jaguar was placed on the federal endangered species list in 1997.

The cats were thought to have been eliminated in the U.S. by 1990 until two were spotted in 1996 in southern Arizona.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s proposal for designating critical habitat stems from a court order. The agency says it’s also working on an economic analysis of the proposal and that public comment will be sought.

The proposed habitat would include parts of Pima, Santa Cruz and Cochise counties in Arizona and New Mexico’s Hidalgo County.

Environmentalists say the proposed designation would provide a big boost for returning jaguars to the Southwest.

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