November 15, 2012

PLF files suit over caribou petition

By Brian T. Hodges Senior Attorney

PLF attorneys filed a federal lawsuit in Idaho today because the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service failed to respond to a petition that asks the agency to remove the Southern Selkirk Mountain Caribou Population from the endangered species list.  PLF submitted the petition last May on behalf of Bonner County and the Idaho State Snowmobile Association.  The petition urges the Service to delist the caribou population in Idaho’s panhandle because the caribou that roam there do not represent a population of wildlife that is eligible for listing under the Endangered Species Act.  The Service did not respond to the petition within the statutory 90-day period for initial findings.  Therefore, we are asking the court to order the Service to act.

Why is it important for the Service to recognize that its caribou listing is in error?  Well, Bonner County is a popular destination for snowmobiling and other winter recreation activities.  Winter tourism is a major industry in the county’s economy and is central to the health of area businesses.  Due to the caribou listing, snowmobile trails have been closed and local businesses and tax revenues are suffering.  And additional restrictions are about to come on line as the Service prepares to finalize a rule that would designate over 375,000 acres of public and private land as critical habitat for the caribou.

Further economic devastation could be avoided if the Service delisted the caribou population in accord with the best available science.  The Service does not seem to be interested in revisiting its caribou policy, but our lawsuit should force the agency to address it.

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