SANDPOINT — The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service announced on Tuesday that it is conducting a status review of southern Selkirk Mountains population of woodland caribou in light of a petition to have the mammal removed from the Endangered Species Act.
The Pacific Legal Foundation petitioned last May to lift the federal protections placed on southern Selkirk caribou populations. The foundation is representing Bonner County and the Idaho State Snowmobile Association in the de-listing effort.
“This petition questions whether the southern Selkirk Mountains population of woodland caribou warrants listing under the ESA. Our initial review found that information in the petition was substantial to conduct an in-depth status review,” said Brian Kelly, Fish & Wildlife’s Idaho supervisor.
Protections were placed on caribou in the southern Selkirks in 1983 due to threats posed by poaching, habitat loss due to timber harvesting, motor vehicle collisions and inbreeding.
The county and snowmobile association petitioned to de-list caribou in the southern Selkirks after Fish & Wildlife identified nearly 400,000 acres in the Panhandle and eastern Washington as critical habitat. The agency ultimately designated 30,000 acres as critical habitat, all of which would be located in either Boundary County or Washington state’s Pend Oreille County.
The status review was met with mixed reaction, as was the case when the habitat designation was made last month.
“We hope that the Fish & Wildlife Service isn’t throwing in the towel,” said Brad Smith of the Idaho Conservation League. “The Selkirk Mountains are one of the last places in Idaho where you can still find all the native fish and wildlife.”
The Pacific Legal Foundation, meanwhile, welcomed the federal officials decision to take a close look at the listing.
“That’s a step forward in terms of sound science, responsible environmental regulation, and the health of our freedoms and our economy,” said PLF attorney Daniel Himebaugh.
Fish & Wildlife said the agency’s “substantial 90-day finding” does not mean it is de-listing southern Selkirk Caribou. However, it does indicate that a more thorough review is needed to determine whether de-listing is scientifically justified.
Fish & Wildlife is encouraging the public to comment and provide supporting data for their positions via scientific journal articles and publications.
The deadline to comment is Jan. 18. For more information on commenting, visit www.fws.gov/idaho.