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June 11, 2014

Rules sought for conflict over wolves

read full article in Spokesman Review

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 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.


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

Our fish and wildlife friends are important parts of balanced ecological systems. These "ecosystems" are made up of diverse habitats, which not only support viable populations of wildlife, but also provide priceless services to human communities such as clean water. Animal and fish populations thus serve as indicators when human activities become unsustainable.

These are reasons why The Lands Council works to save endangered, threatened, and sensitive species, such as mountain caribou, Canada lynx, and bull trout. And because these species depend so much on intact forest ecosystems, we work to preserve old growth and native forests, restore watersheds, and protect roadless areas.



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