N. Idaho officials aim to delist woodland caribou
Published: April 29,2012
Bonner County officials who want federal protections removed from woodland caribou have hired the law firm that successfully argued before the U.S. Supreme Court a northern Idaho couple’s wetlands dispute.
Jim Burling of the Pacific Legal Foundation tells The Spokesman-Review in a story published April 29 that attorneys will argue the southern Selkirk caribou herd isn’t a distinct population and isn’t eligible to be listed as an endangered species.
“There are millions of caribou to the north of us,” said Mike Nielsen, a Bonner County commissioner. “I like caribou. They are majestic animals. I don’t want to hurt them.”
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed designating more than 375,500 acres in the Selkirk Mountains as critical habitat for the endangered caribou. Most of the federal land is in Idaho’s Bonner and Boundary counties and nearby Washington state’s Pend Oreille County.
But commissioners in Bonner County said the plan will result in new restrictions on logging, snowmobiling and forest access. The county has agreed to pay the conservative, pro-property rights Pacific Legal Foundation $10,000 for representation and to petition for the caribou to be delisted.
The law firm represented Mike and Chantell Sackett in their lawsuit concerning an Environmental Protection Agency order that blocked construction of their new home near a scenic lake and threatened fines of more than $30,000 a day.
The Supreme Court ruled unanimously last month that property owners have a right to prompt review by a judge of an important tool used by the Environmental Protection Agency to address water pollution. The court rejected EPA’s argument that allowing property owners quick access to courts to contest orders like the one issued to the Sacketts would compromise the agency’s ability to deal with water pollution.
“We’ve been petitioned to delist the herd in the past,” said Bryon Holt, a biologist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “We found that delisting is not warranted.”
Woodland caribou, rarely-seen creatures that with their antlers stand as tall as a man, are struggling to survive in the United States, precariously occupying one remote area of the Northwest as a final toehold in the Lower 48.
Federal endangered species law requires that critical habitat be set aside for the caribou, and environmental groups went to court to force the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to comply.
The agency last month extended the public comment period to May 21 on their proposal to create critical habitat for the caribou. Agency officials said requests from Idaho Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter, local governments and tribal officials prompted the decision to extend the deadline.
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