The Southern Selkirk Mountains population of woodland caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou) is currently listed as an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), with designated critical habitat. This population can be found in high-elevation habitat throughout northern Idaho, northeastern Washington and southern British Columbia. Woodland caribou was first listed as endangered in 1984. 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 USFWS published the final rule designating critical habitat for the Southern Selkirk Mountains population of woodland caribou in 2012. The final rule designates a total of 30,000 acres within northeastern Washington and northern Idaho. The critical habitat in Idaho is limited to 6,000 acres of federal land within Boundary County. For more information read the Designation of Critical Habitat for the Southern Selkirk Mountains Population of Woodland Caribou.
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. The comments can be read at the following link (State of Idaho Comments on Proposed Caribou Critical Habitat Designation). After much collaboration, peer review, and analysis, the USFWS agreed that the 2011 proposed rule did not accurately reflect the occupancy of the woodland caribou at the time of listing, and the final rule appropriately designates only those areas that 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 publish a rule that is well-vetted and strikes a balance between species conservation and local interests.
Selkirk Mountains population of woodland caribou is currently proposed for downlisting, from endangered to threatened. The USFWS is proposing to amend the listing to include a broader range of mountain caribou in British Columbia.