Bonner County has filed a frivolous lawsuit in hopes of getting the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to respond to a petition to have the Selkirk Mountain Caribou removed from the Endangered Species list. This suit is represented by the Pacific Legal Counsel, Bonner County and the Idaho State Snowmobile Association (ISSA), who claim that there are thousands of Caribou in North America and the USFWS is singling out a population that doesn’t fall under the ESA.
However, according to the USFWS, the Selkirk Caribou are of the mountain ecotype of Caribou, distinct from the much more numerous (lowland, migrating) caribou of Canada and Alaska. These Selkirk Mountain Caribou are a small and isolated population (only 46 remain), separated by significant distance and significantly different habitat from their lowland cousins. This qualifies them for protection under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. For similar reasons, they are similarly protected under Canada’s species protection laws.
This lawsuit comes after the USFWS designated 375,000 acres in the Panhandle and Eastern Washington as critical habitat for the caribou. This is a very small area when the caribou’s historical range stretched from northeast Washington to Glacier National Park and south to the Clearwater River. Regardless, this lawsuit claims that the critical habitat area (much of which is not even located in Bonner County) will “devastate” the county’s tourism and timber industry.
The reason this critical habitat area will be closed to snowmobiles is that the best available science shows that motorized winter recreation causes caribou to be displaced and caribou will avoid these areas in subsequent years. Eventually they will run out of places to hide.
We hope that USFWS continues to ignore Bonner County’s petition and uphold the integrity of the ESA which is designed to protect critically imperiled species from extinction as a “consequence of economic growth and development untempered by adequate concern and conservation….these species of wildlife are of esthetic, ecological, educational, historical, recreational, and scientific value to the Nation and its people;
For those displaced snowmobilers, here is a map that highlights in red the hundreds of miles of trails available to you this snowy season.