Meeting set for caribou habitat coordination - Bonner County Daily Bee: Local News

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Meeting set for caribou habitat coordination

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Posted: Saturday, January 14, 2012 10:00 am

SANDPOINT — Bonner County commissioners are meeting with U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service officials on Jan. 24 to discuss the designation of critical habitat for caribou in the southern Selkirk Mountains.

It’s slated for 1:30 p.m. at the Inn at Priest Lake in Coolin.

Commissioners asked Fish & Wildlife last month for formal coordination authority on the habitat designation.

The board hopes to influence the designation process through the coordination.

Fish & Wildlife announced last November it proposed designating 375,562 acres in Bonner and Boundary counties and Washington state’s Pend Oreille County as vital habitat for the endangered member of the deer family.

The deadline to comment on the proposal is Jan. 30, although the comment period could be extended another two months.

“We’ve received some requests for an extension and we’re working on that right now to meet that 60-day extension request,” said Susan Burch, chief for listing and recovery at Fish & Wildlife’s Boise office.

Woodland caribou were listed under the Endangered Species Act in 1984. The Selkirk Conservation Alliance and several other environmental groups sued in 2002 to bring about habitat protections. A subsequent suit in 2009 forced Fish & Wildlife to designate critical habitat.

A final rule is due by Nov. 20, according to the terms of the settlement in the 2009 suit.

The proposed designation has set resort operators and forest users at Priest Lake on edge. They fear the designation will result in a year-round halt on recreation on public lands above 4,000 feet, where the caribou dine on arboreal lichens in old-growth forests.

County commissioners are building a coalition of other governments in the tri-state to challenge the designation.

“We’ve got about 10 or 12 counties all asking to be in involved,” said Commission Chairman Cornel Rasor.

Commissioners here have been unrelenting in their criticism of the proposal, which they contend is propped up by weak science and over-inflated population estimates.

Fish & Wildlife estimates there are 46 caribou in the recovery area, although county officials point out only several have been spotted in Idaho over the years.

“For three caribou, we’re going to tie up over 375,000 acres? That’s over a hundred thousand acres per caribou that people can’t use,” said Commissioner Mike Nielsen.

Commissioner Lewie Rich said the agency is skirting the impacts of wolves and mountain lion have on the caribou population.

“They would not deal with the predation issue,” said Rich.

Fish & Wildlife declines to speculate on what impact the designation could have on recreation and other forest activities.

“There’s no intent to close anything or do anything different. It just adds another conversation between the federal agencies,” said Burch.

Burch said the designation does not give the government authority to appropriate private lands, nor does it grant it access to private lands.

“It doesn’t create a wilderness — I think that’s one of the biggest misconceptions just in general of critical habitat,” she added.


Lend your voice to the discussion

The deadline to comment on the caribou habitat designation is Jan. 30, although a request is pending to extend the comment period. Comments can sent to Public Comments Processing, Attn: FWS-R1-ES-2011-0096, Division of Policy & Directives Management, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, 4401 North Fairfax Drive, MS 2042-PDM, Arlington, VA. 22203. They can submitted electronically to (enter FWS-R1-ES-2011-0096 in the keyword box).

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  • AngryNIdaho posted at 6:41 pm on Wed, Jan 18, 2012.

    AngryNIdaho Posts: 18

    THANK GOODNESS FOR COORDINATION. Those TWELVE counties Rasor found will have a HUGE IMPACT on the critical habitat in TWO Idaho counties. The Endangered Species Act shouldn't apply when there are SO FEW ANIMALS!

  • Great White Hunter posted at 1:16 pm on Wed, Jan 18, 2012.

    Great White Hunter Posts: 14

    Felix, banning snowmobiles is a good start. These vehicles have no business in our wilderness, destroying the environment and causing billions of dollars in habitat damage nationwide. All of the Californians with their expensive snowmobiles need to go back to California and damage that state’s environment. And leave us Idaho residents alone with their eco-destroying terrorism.
    We do have a few irresponsible habitat destroyers in Idaho like leechstomper who are right wing nut jobs. They need to spend more time working like conservatives pretend they do, so as to not damage our environment in North Idaho. Or is leechstomper retired like that crotchety Old Cop or Old One like Bob Wynhausen calls him? Bob Wynhausen is a good Californian. If leechstomper is retired he should volunteer to clean public toilets to help pay for his Social Security and Medicare.
    Ms. Fitz, your post is brilliant. Please excuse leechstomper. He does not speak for most North Idaho natives. He is one of the backwoods ruffians the majority of us wish would crawl back in their holes. Maybe he should leave Idaho for California where most of the environmental eco-destroyers in North Idaho hail from. They won’t let them damage California‘s wilderness areas, so they come to Idaho to pollute and damage our environment.
    Snowmobile dealers are like drug dealers in that they empower the eco-destroyers to destroy the environment. I do not know how they can sleep at night after accepting blood money from the eco-destroyers, the blood of caribou and other endangered species.

  • Felix posted at 12:37 pm on Wed, Jan 18, 2012.

    Felix Posts: 18

    Leechie, you are so naughty. I think Great White Hunter needs to chime in and set the record straight. Hurry up GWH and let savage right wing brutes know what should happen. Leechie bad boy. Savage brute. Woof woof bad dog.
    Felix the cat

  • leechstomper posted at 8:12 am on Wed, Jan 18, 2012.

    leechstomper Posts: 1592

    MS. Fritz: Since you have so blithely ingored science, natural species migration and species surplantation and instead chose to make a completely moronic statement, I shall reply in kind.

    Your "aboriginnal indians" are a conquered people and as such have no voice in the decisions of their conquerers. They should keep their mouths shut and be supplicant to more advanced peoples.

    That statement was just as asinine and far out as yours. Perchance you should find a more thoughtful position.

  • Jane Fritz posted at 10:32 pm on Tue, Jan 17, 2012.

    Jane Fritz Posts: 3

    As an oral historian who has worked with the aboriginal Kalispel Tribe of Indians whose indigenous territory was more than 4 million acres stretching from eastern Washington, across the Panhandle of Idaho, to the Mission Mountains of Montana, and whose ancestors lived in this area for 10,000 years, it may interest people ignorant of the natural history of this area to know that caribou once outnumbered deer in our area.

    In other words, the caribou belong here, and are endangered largely because of non-Indian human beings, not wolves or grizzly bears. A species I'd rather see go extinct instead? Snowmobilers.

    County commissioners, like those in Bonner County, typically don't have any concept of the importance of a diversity of species to healthy ecosystems. The three men who think they run everything in our county definitely don't. Subsequently, they should have no say in whether or not caribou should exist in the Selkirk Mountains.

  • ski2work posted at 10:51 am on Sat, Jan 14, 2012.

    ski2work Posts: 633

    What caribou...the 40 or so that were trucked down here only to head back north to Canada? They are not in any way endangered...they live NORTH, in Canada, in an environment THEY like! You can't force the animals to live here. This is just another attempt by the US Government to restrict access to public lands with their phoney endangered species crap.