The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing to designate about 838,000 acres, mostly in Southern Arizona, as critical habitat for jaguars.

The service has published its 126-page plan in the Federal Register but is not yet ready to make an announcement, spokesman Tom Buckley said.

Under the plan, large swaths of Southern Arizona’s mountains would be placed under increased federal scrutiny to ensure that proposed changes in the habitat don’t harm the jaguar.

The plan would designate:

• About 343,000 acres in the Santa Rita, Patagonia and Huachuca mountains as well as the Canelo Hills, south and southeast of Tucson.

• About 144,000 acres in the Tumacacori, Atascaosa and Pajarito mountains north and west of Nogales.

• About 139,000 acres in the Baboquivari Mountains southwest of Tucson on the border of the Tohono O’odham Nation.

• About 105,000 acres in the Whetstone Mountains near Benson, and its connections to the Santa Rita and Huachuca Mountains.

• About 100,000 acres in the Peloncillo Mountains on the border of southeastern Arizona and southwestern New Mexico.

• About 8,000 acres in the San Luis Mountains of southwestern New Mexico.

A 60-day public comment period on the proposal will begin soon.

The service is also planning to prepared an economic analysis of the proposal and seek peer review of its designation.

A critical habitat designation means the federal government may try to halt activities in the designated area that could damage the habitat of the endangered species.

Senior Editor, News, Arizona Daily Star, Tucson, Az.