Feds affirm protections for Selkirk caribou herd

WEDNESDAY, MAY 7, 2014, 11:10 A.M.

A mountain caribou herd in the southern Selkirk Mountains requires continued protection under the Endangered Species Act, officials said today.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reviewed the caribou’s status after receiving a 2012 petition to remove protections for the herd from the Pacific Legal Foundation, which was acting on behalf of Bonner County and the Idaho State Snowmobile Association.

The foundation’s attorneys argued that the few remaining caribou in North Idaho, Northeast Washington and southern British Columbia are part of larger B.C. herds.

Federal officials said their review concluded that the 27 animals in the South Selkirk herd are indeed part of the larger Southern Mountain woodland caribou population, 15 caribou herds in the wet interior forests extend to north of Prince George, British Columbia. Together, the herds’ contain about 1,657 caribou.

But the B.C. herds are also under pressure from the same threats the South Selkirk herd is facing, including habitat loss and fragmentation, said Bryon Holt, a Fish and Wildlife biologist. Caribou populations in Canada are also declining, he said.

Since the South Selkirk herd is part of a larger population, federal officials are proposing to list it as “threatened” instead of “endangered,” but the herd would still retain protections under the Endangered Species Act. The proposedchange wouldn’t affect 30,010 acres of designated critical habitat for caribou, primarily in Bonner County, officials said.

More information is available at http://www.fws.gov/idaho.

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