It will be up to a federal appeals court to decide whether tens of thousands of acres in New Mexico should be reserved as critical habitat for the endangered jaguar.
The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver is scheduled to hear arguments Wednesday from environmentalists and from lawyers representing a group of ranchers and farmers.
The challenged areas were part of nearly 1,200 square miles (3,108 sq. kilometers) designated in 2014 as essential for the conservation of the jaguar. The critical habitat spans parts of Arizona and New Mexico.
Jaguars are found in 19 countries, but only seven male jaguars have been seen in the American Southwest since 1996. The animals have been protected under the U.S. Endangered Species Act since 1997.