Restoring lynx to tribal lands in northeast Washington
Conservation Northwest / Nov 18, 2021 / Cascades to Rockies, Lynx, Restoring Wildlife
Restoring iconic big cats to wildlands we’ve long worked to protect, connect and restore.
By Mitch Friedman, Executive Director
I was honored last Saturday to be present when Timxw, a 28 lb male Canada lynx, was released into the freshly snowed forest at the northern end of the Reservation of the Colville Confederated Tribes, near the south end of the Kettle River Mountain Range in Ferry County.
The door to the kennel in which he traveled was opened by my colleague, tribal leader Shelly Boyd, as I watched from nearby.
Video of a lynx being released into the Kettle Range this month by Shelly Boyd, a member of the Colville Confederated Tribes and Conservation Northwest colleague.
Timxw had been captured the previous day near Kelowna, British Columbia, territory of the Syilx First Nation and with support from the Okanagan Nation Alliance. He was trapped by a team that included Conservation Northwest’s Dave Werntz and partners from the Colville Tribes’ Fish & Wildlife Department. Earlier in the week the team had captured and translocated two other lynxes that had been named Grandmother and Grandfather by tribal biologist Donovan Antoine.
This is the start of a renewed Canada lynx population in northeast Washington’s Kettle Range, from where they were sadly trapped to near extirpation by the 1970s. It’s inexpressible for me, this feeling of what we’ve been part of. Maybe awe comes close.
I have a deep history with this magnificent big-footed snowcat. In 1988, I led protests against the logging of lynx habitat in north-central Washington. In 1991, with my friend Mark Skatrud, I wrote and submitted a petition to the federal government that eventually gained lynx protection under the Endangered Species Act.
In 1999, we saved 25,000 acres of lynx habitat on the Loomis State Forest. We’ve now spent nearly two decades in collaborative efforts to gain legislated permanent protection of the wildlands of the Kettle Range for lynx. And for the last decade, we’ve been working to protect habitat linking the North Cascades (wildlands that support the healthiest lynx population in the Lower 48) to the Kettle Range and the Rockies beyond, including through the Working for Wildlife Initiative.
These long efforts have manifested a flurry of recent events. On October 8, we closed on the purchase and donation to the Colville Tribes of 9,243 acres of the historic Figlenski Ranch, the linchpin of that habitat corridor for lynx and other wildlife. This effort was also detailed in this feature-length article in The Spokesman Review last month.
On October 21, we argued before the Washington Supreme Court our case, Conservation NW et al. v DNR, to interpret more faithfully what the Washington Constitution means for our public lands to be managed for the benefit of all the people, a campaign initiated right after we paid $16.5 million (necessitated by a different interpretation of those words) to save the Loomis Forest in 1999. You can watch that trial here. Or read news coverage and takeaways here.
On October 22, the Colville Tribes honored us with a ceremony of thanks on the Figlenski Ranch in a day so emotional that raindrops and tears flowed together. You can watch my speech here. The next day I walked seven miles on that property and was stunned by its beauty and humbled by what we had done.
And just last Friday, November 5, we, in our partnership with the National Park Service and Washington Department of Fish and & Wildlife, release another batch of fishers into the ecosystem of the Olympic Peninsula.
The next day, Saturday, was the release of Timxw. Later I joined a meeting of leaders from the Colville, Kalispell, and Flathead tribes, along with our Northeast Washington Forest Coalition partners, to discuss ways to better recognize tribal history and presence in northeast Washington and to better protect its wildlands like the crest of the Kettle Range. Stay tuned for more on that topic soon—you can get a sneak preview on this new webpage.
Timxw is an Nsyilxcan word that to my limited knowledge means something like the English word nature but bigger, like maybe if you combined it with the Chinese word Tao. It’s a word that astounds me. And as I’ve struggled to grasp the emotional impact on me of this cresting wave of events, I’ve thought about how the word awesome has been diluted by overuse. At its root is awe; but how many times in life do we really get to experience true awe? For me, it’s been rapidly repeated of late and I’m overwhelmed.
We can’t ask much more of life than to be part of something good that’s bigger than ourselves, and hopefully a meaningfully positive part. I’m just some guy from Chicago, but I have gotten to be part of protecting, connecting, and restoring this most beautiful region of our world. I have gotten to be part of remediating (if in a modest way) historic injustices to indigenous people while healing the land. I got to help and see Timxw begin a journey of great consequence.
To Timxw, I say limlmtx (thank you) for the sacrifice and burden you bear in fathering a new population in a new place and Godspeed on your mission. When I looked into your eyes, the very essence of serenity, I felt how this mission wasn’t of your choosing but how you were taking it in stride.
And to you, the donors and community of Conservation Northwest, I say THANK YOU for enabling us to play this awesome part in an awesome time and place. Let’s do more!
For the wild,
LEARN MORE ABOUT OUR WORK FOR LYNX RECOVERY ON OUR WEBPAGE