Wolf public meeting - January 16th
Are you concerned about how
Washington treats wolves? The recovery and management of gray wolves in will be
the topic of three public meetings this month hosted by the Washington
Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). A panel of experts will discuss ongoing
efforts to recover Washington's gray wolf population, the latest information
from population surveys in Washington and gray wolf management strategies used
in other states.
Meetings will include an
opportunity for the public to submit questions to the presenters about wolf
recovery and management. Tomorrow, Jan. 16 is where you can make your voice
heard at the Center Place Regional Event Center, 2426 N. Discovery Place,
Spokane Valley, 6-8 p.m.
Caribou Update: 12/18/12
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
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
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.
A very Faustian choice is upon us:
whether to accept our corrosive and risky behavior as the unavoidable
price of population and economic growth, or to take stock of ourselves
and search for a new environmental ethic. - Edward O. Wilson
The woodland caribou is considered one of the most
critically endangered mammals in the United States. Roaming wild expanses of
forests, woodland caribou historically traveled throughout Canada and the northern
United States. Tragically, this community of wandering large creatures, with
their distinctive antlers on both the males and females, their large hooves
adapted to snowy landscapes, their peculiar reliance on arboreal lichens for
food in winter, and their backdrop of stunning old-growth forests, has been
distilled into an argument of jobs vs. the environment.
The southern Selkirk population of the caribou belongs to a
unique mountain dwelling form of caribou known as the "mountain ecotype" that,
unlike other woodland caribou, do not form large herds or make large
migrations. Instead, these caribou migrate between low and high elevation
forests, and disperse widely within their range to avoid predators.
Thought to number between 200 to 400 caribou historically,
the southern Selkirk Mountains population, the only one remaining in the U.S., had
dwindled to approximately 25 by the time of its listing in 1984. Partly because
of repeated augmentation efforts taking from other populations, the Selkirks
herd has increased to about 46 caribou in the entire recovery area, which
straddles the U.S. - Canada border. Most of the animals stay in British
Columbia, with four or fewer found during aerial surveys by wildlife biologists
in recent years on the U.S. side of the border.
Once numbering in the thousands from northeast Washington to
Glacier National Park and south to the Clearwater River, with additional
strongholds in the Great Lakes states and Maine, the caribou recovery area
represents less than 1% of historic range once occupied by caribou in the lower
48 states. Except for this remaining Selkirks population, they were eliminated
by a combination of logging of their old-growth forest habitats, hunting and poaching,
and roads. Research shows caribou are displaced by snowmobiles and other winter
recreation activities and tend to avoid these areas in following years.
Wildfire has also affected the caribou's preferred habitat, as has predation by
mountain lions. Thus, natural events with which caribou have evolved pose
threats when combined with modern-day human activities.
The area managed for recovery since a Caribou Recovery Plan
was written in 1994 covers about 746,500 acres in the US. The recently proposed Critical Habitat is
375,565 acres-only about half the Recovery Area.
The mountain ecotype of caribou are a globally unique
species found only in the inland temperate rainforests of southeast British
Columbia and parts of Washington, Idaho and Montana. These caribou have survived two ice ages,
human development, and human degradation of their land. These endangered
animals symbolize the valuable remnants of a once-thriving ecosystem, with
clean air, clean water, and pristine forests.
Local government figures and others have expressed and
fomented fears that the proposed designation of critical habitat in the
southern Selkirk Mountains is just more federal meddling in local affairs. Some
snowmobile and timber interests believe that livelihoods would be threatened by
critical habitat designation, but since 1987 caribou recovery has been a part
of the forest plans for the Idaho Panhandle and Colville National Forests.
Designation of caribou critical habitat includes national forest habitats
already being managed by for caribou recovery.
- Click here to read the June 14, Spokesman Review article on snowmobiler-commissioned study.
- Click here to read the May 31, Spokesman Review article on draft economic analysis for recovery area.
- Click here to read the Spokesman Review article, Caribou face precarious prognosis, by Becky Kramer, February 26, 2012
- Click here to read the Spokesman Review article, Feds propose critical caribou habitat in Idaho, Washington, by Rich Landers, November 29, 2011
Click here to read The Spokesman Review article, Agency will study habitat of caribou - Conservationists hail decision as crucial for species' survival, by Becky Kramer, The Spokesman Review, June 4, 2009