Federal agency only designates 30,000 acres as critical to caribou

caribouThe U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reduced its final critical habitat designation for the southern Selkirk Mountains population of woodland caribou to only 30,010 acres.

Initially the agency proposed 375,552-acres but reduced it after public involvement and a reexamination of information regarding occupancy at the time of the caribou listing.Idaho Department of Fish and Game photo

The southern Selkirk Mountains population of woodland caribou has been protected under the Endangered Species Act as an endangered species since 1984.

The habitat is in Idaho’s Boundary County and Washington’s Pend Oreille County. The mountain caribou is the most endangered mammal in the United States.

Its population of about 43 animals straddles the border with Canada and live in the Selkirk Mountains.

“Thoughtful inquiry and scientific information was presented to us by Tribes, citizens, federal and State agencies, elected officials and other interested parties," said Brian Kelly, Fish and Wildlife Idaho State Supervisor. "Because of this, we have a modified rule that adheres to policy, is responsive to issues raised by others, and most importantly, addresses priority habitat for caribou conservation,”

The Pacific Legal Foundation earlier this year petitioned Fish and Wildlife to remove the mountain caribou from the list. The foundation, which represents Bonner County and the Idaho State Snowmobile Association, argues the herd isn’t distinct from the vast population of caribou elsewhere on the North American continent.