Six conservation groups filed a lawsuit today challenging the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s decision to reduce protected critical habitat for the endangered woodland caribou by 90 percent.
Last November, Fish and Wildlife officials cut the protected habitat from a proposed 375,562 acres in North Idaho and Northeast Washington to 30,010 acres.
The lawsuit says that the caribou, which are the last remaining herd in the Lower 48 states, need large tracts of undistributed forest to survive.
Idaho’s congressional delegation and rural communities were critical of the larger acreage, citing the low numbers of caribou sighted in recent years.
About 46 woodland caribou are believed to remain in the South Selkirk herd, with most found in British Columbia.
Woodland caribou are adapted to deep snows, feeding on lichen growing on old-growth trees.
The suit was filed by The Lands Council of Spokane, Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, Conservation Northwest, Idaho Conservation League and the Selkirk Conservation Alliance.