Labrador joins fellow Republicans in opposing habitat designation for caribou

Idaho Republican Rep Raúl Labrador is joining the chorus of Republicans fighting critical habitat designation for Idaho’s endangered Selkirk Mountain caribou.

He co-signed a letter to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Daniel Ashe suggesting the designation has serious flaws. The letter was cosigned by Republican Reps. Mike Simpson of Idaho ,Doc Hastings of Washington Cathy McMorris Rodgers also of Washington.

Th proposed rule would designate more than 375,000 acres of public lands in northern Idaho and Washington and 15,000 acres of private property as critical habitat. This wouldn’t change much except that it would require protection of areas where caribou no longer live.

But since the Republicans are questioning even if the caribou should be protected, they are raising questions that grow out of that view. So the Fish and Wildlife economic analysis that only estimates the cost of designation at $1.5 million over 20 years is flawed because it doesn’t include the cumulative effects of the impacts of listing itself in 1983.

“This proposed rule is not based upon sound science, the designation is not prudent or justified and the impact on our rural communities would be much greater than has been suggested,” Labrador wrote.

The congressmen urged Salazar and Ashe to grant 60 additional days for public comments and additional hearings.
Caribou have been scarce in the lower 48 states since 1900. The Selkirk population never got above 60 in the states. They once existed in Montana’s Yaak Mountains, but have not been seen there for years.
The entire population appears to be on a downward path. Today’s population of 27 to 29 is significantly less than the 45 of just a couple of years ago. In the past 30 years, the mountain caribou throughout British Columbia have suffered because of habitat fragmentation from roads and logging and several populations have been listed as species of concern there.