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Critical habitat information

Environmental groups to sue feds over caribou habitat

Jan. 31, 2013

Woodland caribou once roamed across many of the Lower 48 states, but their numbers were decimated by habitat loss, poaching, motor vehicle accidents and harassment by snowmobilers.  Now, a small population along the Washington/Idaho border has been hit hard by two recent decisions of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.   First, the agency decided to only designated a little over 30,000 acres for critical habitat - about 5% of their necessary recovery area and far less than the 375,000 acres they proposed in November 2011.

Next, the agency has caved into a petition from the Pacific Legal Foundation and its clients, Bonner County in Idaho and the Idaho State Snowmobile Association and  a new study to determine if the woodland caribou found in Idaho and Washington should continue to be protected as an endangered species.

The woodland caribou, also known as mountain caribou, are a distinct population that are very different from caribou in northern Canada and Alaska, and were deemed endangered in 1984.  It is undisputed that woodland caribou are struggling to survive in the U.S. Only four were tallied in northern Idaho and eastern Washington during an aerial census last winter, although the U.S. population is estimated to total several dozen animals.  They are found only in the wildest part of the Selkirk Mountains, where road building and logging has not occurred.  The agency has twice before considered delisting caribou and rejected the idea both times - hopefully that common sense will prevail this time.

We think the Endangered Species Act should be enforced and that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service should spend their time improving their recovery efforts, not cater to the special interests of a few individuals.  We support an economic recovery for the Priest Lake area,  which can include snowmobiling in some areas, but we also support quiet recreation and better protection of habitat for caribou, grizzly, lynx, wolverine and other rare species that make our region so special.


June 14 Spokesman Review article  on Snowmobile-Commissioned Study

May 31 Spokesman Review article on Caribou habitat cost analysis.

Click here to learn more about the biology and history of this extraordinary, but highly endangered, species, the Woodland Caribou.

Contact Mike Petersen at 509-209-2406 or mpetersen (at) landscouncil.org for more information.


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