Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Conservation groups file federal lawsuit over "critical habitat" for endangered woodland caribou

Posted By on Tue, Oct 1, 2013 at 2:32 PM

Regional conservation groups filed a federal lawsuit Monday accusing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service of violating the Endangered Species Act by cutting protected habitat for the last herd of woodland caribou in the Lower 48 states from a proposed 375,000 acres to just 30,010 acres. 

The Lands Council of Spokane, the Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, Conservation Northwest, the Idaho Conservation League and the Selkirk Conservation Alliance have all joined in the lawsuit. (The full 27-page complaint filed Sept. 30 can be read below.)

"Although woodland caribou is one of the most endangered mammals in the United States, the [U.S. Fish and Wildlife] Service designated less than 10 percent of the area it first determined should be critical habitat and which it had previously identified as necessary for the recovery in its woodland caribou recovery plan," the complaint states.

The Inlander wrote about the controversy surrounding woodland caribou in April of 2012. Only about 1,850 of the elusive ungulates remain in the world, mostly residing in the Canadian Rockies. A herd of about 40, called the Southern Selkirk herd, live along the border of Northern Idaho.

Federal wildlife officials initially proposed preserving more than 375,000 acres of Northeastern Washington and Northern Idaho as "critical habitat" for caribou migrating in and out of Canada. In late 2012, wildlife officials reduced that protected acreage and later agreed to consider de-listing the woodland caribou from the Endangered Species Act.

In the newly filed lawsuit, conservationists have asked the court to "set aside" the current habitat decision and order federal wildlife officials to rewrite a new, expanded rule protecting additional rangeland for the Selkirk herd.

Here is the complaint from the new lawsuit:

Caribou Lawsuit regarding caribou habitat

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Jacob Jones

Staff writer Jacob Jones covers criminal justice, natural resources, military issues and organized labor for the Inlander.