From: Editor, Center for Biological Diversity
Published December 24, 2012 08:54 AM

Caribou at Risk of Losing Endangered Species Act Protection

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today that removing Endangered Species Act protections for the woodland caribou "may be warranted." The decision came in response to a petition from an anti-environment law firm, Pacific Legal Foundation, along with Bonners County and the Idaho State Snowmobile Association. The petition argues that the southern Selkirk population of caribou, which are found in Idaho, Washington and British Columbia, are not significant and therefore not worthy of protection. Today's finding does not substantiate that claim, but states the Fish and Wildlife Service will take a closer look.

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"This is the last population of caribou in the lower 48 states and certainly worthy of our care and protection," said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity. "If it were up to the Pacific Legal Foundation, caribou, Puget Sound orcas and many other species would be allowed to go extinct in the contiguous United States simply because they also live in Canada. What if we'd said that about the bald eagle? This approach not only defies logic and the best available science, it's also un-American."

Woodland caribou once ranged across much of the northern lower 48 states, including the northern Rocky Mountains, upper Midwest and Northeast. Today they remain only in a small area of the Idaho Panhandle and extreme northeastern Washington, where they are part of a population protected under the Endangered Species Act since 1983 and known as the southern Selkirk population, which ranges into British Columbia. The population is part of a larger group of caribou, known as mountain caribou, which have adapted to surviving winters with deep snow in part by having dinner-plate sized hooves that work like snowshoes. Both the Fish and Wildlife Service, in 2008, and Canadian government scientists have recognized the southern Selkirk population as significant and worthy of protection.

"Scientists from both sides of the border have determined the southern Selkirk population is significant and needs protection to survive," said Greenwald. "I'll be deeply saddened if these unique animals are allowed to go extinct, and so will many other Americans."

Article continues at Center for Biological Diversity

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