The Southern Selkirk Mountains population of woodland caribou was listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act in 1984. This population of woodland caribou is part of a larger population spending most of its time north of the U.S./ Canadian border. Multiple attempts to augment the population in the late 1980s and 1990s into the Selkirk Mountains of northern Idaho and northeastern Washington resulted in a modest, but temporary increase to the size of this population. The current unofficial estimated number of remaining animals in the Southern Selkirk herd stands at around 46 individuals. A recent winter aerial survey found only four woodland caribou on the U.S. side of the international border in Idaho in 2012.
In 2008, OSC provided comments to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services’ request for new information on woodland caribou during their 5-year status review. Those comments can be found below.
In November 2012, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) published the final rule designating critical habitat for the Southern Selkirk Mountains population of woodland caribou. The final rule designates a total of 30,000 acres within northeast Washington and north Idaho. The critical habitat in Idaho is limited to 6,000 acres of federal land within Boundary County. This designation by the Service marks a vast departure from the 2011 proposed rule, which set out to designate a total of 375,000 acres of critical habitat across Washington and Idaho.
Prior to the publishing of the final critical habitat rule, the State of Idaho submitted comments which showed that the Service’s initial assessment of the species’ occupancy at the time of listing was flawed. After much collaboration, peer review, and analysis, the Service agreed that the 2011 proposed rule did not accurately reflect the occupancy of the woodland caribou at the time of listing, and their final rule designates only those areas that they believe are necessary for the conservation of woodland caribou. The final critical habitat designation for woodland caribou is an all-too-rare example of a federal agency working collaboratively with the State and interested parties in an effort to put forth a rule that is well-vetted and, most importantly, strikes a balance between species conservation and local interests.You can find the critical habitat designation here.