The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has announced three proposed rules and findings on the sometimes controversial issue of the southern Selkirk Mountain woodland caribou. Public hearings are now scheduled in both Sandpoint and in Bonners Ferry, where anyone can attend to learn more about the Fish and Wildlife Service findings and determinations, and to make public comment and input before the Service finalizes its rules and findings.
About the Caribou
This particular population of woodland caribou, which has as its range British Columbia, Canada, northeastern Washington and Boundary County, Idaho, is the southernmost population of woodland caribou in the North American continent. This local caribou population has been listed as "Endangered" since 1984 under the Endangered Species Act of 1973.
Boundary County's southern Selkirk Mountain woodland caribou are considered to be one local group of the larger, Southern Mountain Caribou, which consists of 15 separate local caribou populations. In 1995, the population of the entire larger group of Southern Mountain Caribou was estimated to be 2,554 individuals. By 2002 the population had fallen to an estimated 1,900. The 2013 population estimate for the entire larger group of Southern Mountain Caribou is now 1,657 individual caribou.
It was estimated that the population of our local southern Selkirk Mountain woodland caribou was 27 individual caribou in 2012.
The FWS Findings
In its current announcement, the Fish and Wildlife Service addressed three issues:
1. In responding to a petition from the Pacific Legal Foundation, representing Bonner County, Idaho and the Idaho State Snowmobile Association, to delist the southern Selkirk Mountain population of woodland caribou from its current "endangered" designation, Fish and Wildlife stated, "After review of the best available scientific and commercial information, we find that delisting the species is not warranted."
2. Fish and Wildlife proposes to define the larger Southern Mountain Caribou as a "distinct population segment" (DPS), and to designate the listing for this larger caribou group as "Threatened" under the Endangered Species Act. Our southern Selkirk Mountain caribou would be considered a local part of this larger population.
3. Fish and Wildlife determined that the already-designated critical habitat for our southern Selkirk Mountain caribou applies to this new proposed designation of Southern Mountain Caribou DPS.
Information Sessions and Hearings Scheduled
The public informational sessions and hearings on these issues are scheduled for June 25 in Sandpoint, and June 26 in Bonners Ferry. Both meetings will start with an informal discussion and information-sharing session from 2:00 pm until 5:00 pm, where people can ask questions and receive information. The official public hearings begin at 6:00 p.m. and will go until 8:00 p.m. Members of the public can make official comments at these public hearings. Details on these two meetings:
SANDPOINT: Wednesday, June 25, 2014, at the Bonner County Headquarters meeting room, 1500 Highway 2, Sandpoint, Idaho. Informational session 2:00 p.m. until 5:00 p.m., followed by public hearing from 6:00 p.m. until 8:00 p.m.
BONNERS FERRY: Thursday, June 26, 2014, at Bonners Ferry High School, 6485 Tamarack Lane, Bonners Ferry. Informational session 2:00 p.m. until 5:00 p.m., followed by public hearing from 6:00 p.m. until 8:00 p.m.
Comment can also be submitted at these meetings in written form. Comments can also be submitted to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service electronically, or by mail, or even hand delivered (to their office in Virginia). For instructions on submitting comments, go to:
Comments are accepted through Aug 6.
In the past, controversy has emerged over the designation of the critical habitat area for these caribou. At one point several years ago, the Fish and Wildlife service was considering an area of 375,552 acres that included a huge swath through Boundary County which included virtually all of the Selkirks between Priest Lake and the Kootenai Valley. However, in 2012 the final designation of the caribou critical habitat was determined to be a significantly smaller 30,010 acres, with only a small remote corner in northwest Boundary County being part of that designation. Most of this habitat area today is in Pend Oreille County, Washington, with only approximately 1/4 of the habitat lying within Boundary County.
Caribou recovery efforts have also bumped up against snowmobilers, with several court cases addressing these issues occurring from 2005 - 2007. There is an injunction currently in effect restricting snowmobiling within parts of the existing woodland caribou recovery area.
Complete information of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife actions and detailed (extremely detailed and thorough) information on their three findings listed above can be found at the Federal Register online at:
Information on the upcoming informational meetings and public hearings and the procedure for submitting comments can be found at: