The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will review the status of the southern Selkirk Mountains population of woodland caribou in response to a petition to remove it from Endangered Species Act.
Bonner County and the Idaho State Snowmobile Association filed a petition earlier this year to remove the caribou from the endangered list. Brandon Middleton, the Pacific Legal Foundation attorney who filed the petition, said reindeer and caribou around the world are the same species.
“This petition questions whether the southern Selkirk Mountains population of woodland caribou warrants listing under ESA,” said Brian T. Kelly, the Service’s Idaho state supervisor. “Our initial review found that information in the petition was substantial enough to conduct an in-depth status review.”
The Service now will do a 12-month status review to make a decision on whether delisting this population of caribou is warranted. Environmentalists are alarmed.
“This is the last population of caribou in the lower 48 states and certainly worthy of our care and protection,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “If it were up to the Pacific Legal Foundation, caribou, Puget Sound orcas and many other species would be allowed to go extinct in the contiguous United States simply because they also live in Canada.”
Biologists counted fewer than 30 caribou last winter in the Selkirk Mountains, which reach south from British Columbia into the northernmost parts of Idaho and Washington. The mountain caribou are the only ones that live in high-elevation forests and eat lichens that grow on trees.
The caribou was listed in 1983 and since roads and snowmobile trails have been closed and logging limited in the high-elevation, old-growth rainforest of the Selkirks to protect the animals and their habitat.