Daily Rules, Proposed Rules, and Notices of the Federal Government
The coordinates or plot points or both from which the map for this critical habitat designation was generated are included in the administrative record and are available at
All of the area being designated as critical habitat is federally owned lands under management of the U.S. Forest Service (USFS). The areas being designated were occupied at the time of listing under the Act (49 FR 7390: February 29, 1984), and are essential to the conservation of the southern Selkirk Mountains population of woodland caribou.
It is our intent to discuss in this final rule only those topics directly relevant to the development and designation of critical habitat for the southern Selkirk Mountains population of woodland caribou under the Act (16 U.S.C. 1531
In 1984, we published a final rule listing the transboundary population of woodland caribou (
The southern Selkirk Mountains population of woodland caribou is included within the mountain caribou ecotype (mountain caribou) that currently occupies southeastern British Columbia (B.C.), northern Idaho, and northeastern Washington near the international border to northeast of Prince George (Wittmer
The term “mountain caribou” is a common designation used throughout the scientific literature to describe the mountain/arboreal-lichen feeding ecotype of woodland caribou populations found in the mountainous regions of southeastern British Columbia, including the transboundary southern Selkirk Mountains population of woodland caribou (Mountain Caribou Science Team 2005, p. 1). In this final rule, use of the term mountain caribou refers to descriptions of the subspecies woodland caribou in general, and we use the term southern Selkirk Mountains population of woodland caribou when referencing the listed transboundary population.
In 1980, the Service received petitions to list the South Selkirk Mountains population of woodland caribou as endangered under the Endangered Species Act from the Idaho Department of Fish and Game (IDFG) and Dean Carrier, a U.S. Forest Service (USFS) staff biologist and former chairman of the International Mountain Caribou Technical Committee (IMCTC). At that time, the population was believed to consist of 13 to 20 animals (48 FR 1722). Following a review of the petition and other data readily available, the southern Selkirk Mountains woodland caribou population in northeastern Washington, northern Idaho, and southeastern B.C. was listed as endangered under the Act's emergency procedures on January 14, 1983 (48 FR 1722). A second emergency rule was published on October 25, 1983 (48 FR 49245), and a final rule listing the southern Selkirk Mountains woodland caribou population as endangered was published on February 29, 1984 (49 FR 7390). The designation of critical habitat was determined to be not prudent at that time, since increased poaching could result from the publication of maps showing areas used by the species. A Management Plan/Recovery Plan for Selkirk Caribou was approved by the Service in 1985 (USFWS 1985), and revised in 1994 (USFWS 1994).
Notices of 90-day findings on two petitions to delist the southern Selkirk Mountains population of woodland caribou were published in the
On August 17, 2005, a complaint was filed in Federal district court challenging two biological opinions issued by the Service, and USFS management actions within southern Selkirk Mountains caribou habitat and the recovery area. The plaintiffs included Defenders of Wildlife, Conservation Northwest, the Lands Council, Selkirk Conservation Alliance, Idaho Conservation League, and Center for Biological Diversity. The lawsuit challenged, in part, no jeopardy biological opinions on the USFS Land and Resource Management Plans for the Idaho Panhandle (IPNF) and Colville (CNF) National Forests, and the USFS' failure to comply with the incidental take statements in the biological opinions.
In December 2005, the Court granted a preliminary injunction prohibiting snowmobile trail grooming within the caribou recovery area on the IPNF during the winter of 2005-2006. In November 2006, the Court granted a modified injunction restricting snowmobiling and snowmobile trail grooming on portions of the IPNF within the southern Selkirk Mountains caribou recovery area. On February 14, 2007, the Court ordered a modification of the current injunction to add a protected caribou travel corridor connecting habitat in the United States portion of the southern Selkirk Mountains with habitat in British Columbia. This injunction is currently in effect, pending the completion of section 7 consultation on the IPNF's proposed winter travel plan.
On April 11, 2006, a notice of initiation of 5-year reviews for 70 species in Idaho, Oregon, Washington, and Hawaii, and Guam was published in the
On December 6, 2002, the Defenders of Wildlife, Lands Council, Selkirk Conservation Alliance, and Center for Biological Diversity (plaintiffs) petitioned the Service to designate critical habitat for the endangered southern Selkirk Mountains population of woodland caribou. On February 10, 2003, we acknowledged receipt of the plaintiff's petition, and stated we were unable to address the petition at that
A proposed rule (76 FR 74018) to designate approximately 375,562 ac (151,985 ha) as critical habitat in Boundary and Bonner Counties in Idaho, and Pend Oreille County in Washington was submitted to the
On May 9, 2012, we received a petition dated May 9, 2012, from Bonner County, Idaho, and the Idaho State Snowmobile Association, which calls into question whether the southern Selkirk Mountains population of woodland caribou is a listable entity under the Act. We are developing a response to that petition.
We requested written comments from the public on the proposed designation of critical habitat for the southern Selkirk Mountains population of woodland caribou during three comment periods. The first comment period, associated with the publication of the proposed rule (76 FR 74018), opened on November 30, 2011, and closed on January 30, 2012. We contacted Federal, State, Tribal, and local agencies, scientific organizations, and other interested parties and invited them to comment on the proposed rule. In response to a request we received during the first public comment period from Idaho's Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter, the Kootenai Tribe of Idaho, and Boundary County, Idaho, to allow the public more time to submit comments and to hold an informational session and public hearing, we opened a second comment period on March 21, 2012 (77 FR 16512), for an additional 60 days. The Service-hosted informational session and public hearing were held in Bonner's Ferry, Idaho, on April 28, 2012. A third public comment period, associated with the publication of the DEA of the proposed designation and an amended required determinations section, opened on May 31, 2012, and closed on July 2, 2012 (77 FR 32075). The Service hosted an additional informational session and public hearing during this comment period on June 16, 2012, in Coolin, Idaho.
In acknowledgement of our responsibility to work directly with tribes, and to make information available regarding the proposed critical habitat designation, the Service met with the Kootenai Tribe of Idaho on January 9, 2012, in Bonners Ferry, Idaho, and participated on conference calls with the Kootenai Tribe of Idaho on May 24, 2012. The Service also discussed the proposal with the Kalispel Tribe of Indians on several occasions, including February 23, March 12, and April 26, 2012.
The Service also responded to several requests for public information and coordination meetings, including: (1) the Kootenai Valley Resource Initiative (KVRI) on January 9, 2012, in Bonners Ferry, Idaho; (2) the Bonner County Commissioners on January 24, February 28, March 26, and June 4, 2012, in Bonner County, Idaho; and (3) the Boundary County Commissioners on April 19, 2012, in Boundary County, Idaho.
During the first 60-day comment period, we received 172 comment letters addressing the proposed critical habitat designation. During the second 60-day comment period, we received an additional 118 comments from individuals or organizations, with an additional 37 written or oral comments provided at the April 28, 2012, public hearing in Bonner's Ferry, Idaho. During the third and final comment period, we received 10 comments on the proposal and the DEA, and testimony from 11 individuals at the public hearing.
During the public comments periods, comments were received from Federal, State, and local agencies, peer reviewers with scientific expertise, the Kootenai Tribe of Idaho, the Kalispel Tribe of Indians, the Canadian Government, private citizens, nongovernmental organizations, private companies, business owners, elected officials, recreational user groups, commercial and trade organizations, and others. Approximately 60 unique individual comments received were generally supportive of the proposed rule, while approximately 70 unique individual comments were in opposition to the proposed rule. Through campaigns sponsored by nongovernmental organizations, we received an additional 64,258 comments in support of the proposed designation consisting entirely of template letters.
The Service received many comments outside the scope of this rulemaking, including issues such as: (a) Threats to the species such as recreation, fires, and road building, management and control of predators and or prey species, previous actions taken by the Service to introduce or protect other listed species such as gray wolves (
We received numerous comments specific to the threat of predation on the southern Selkirk Mountains population of woodland caribou, with many stating that gray wolves and other species such as grizzly bear, black bear (
Similarly, we received numerous comments regarding the effectiveness of past augmentation efforts to supplement the southern Selkirk Mountains population of woodland caribou, which were conducted by the Service, Canada, and State wildlife agencies. Efforts to augment the existing woodland caribou population with 103 animals from source herds in British Columbia between 1987 and 1990, and 1996 and 1998, have not resulted in a long-term improvement in caribou distribution throughout the southern Selkirk Mountains. A large number of the transplanted caribou died within the first year of augmentation, and there has been no long term increase in the population (USFWS 2008a). The number of woodland caribou detected in the United States has continued to dwindle, and annual census surveys continue to find the bulk of the remaining population occupying habitats in British Columbia. The most recent census information demonstrates a decline from 46 caribou in 2009 to 27 animals in 2012, although the cause of this decline has not been described (Degroot and Wakkinen 2012, p.2). The 2011 survey documented zero caribou in the United States, and the 2012 survey documented 4 caribou on Little Snowy Top Mountain, Idaho. No other tracks were observed in the United States (DeGroot and Wakkinen 2012, p. 5).
Although important and integral to the population's recovery, addressing threats such as predation, as well as efforts to stabilize or increase the southern Selkirk Mountains population of woodland caribou, are outside of the scope of this rulemaking. These issues will be addressed, as appropriate, within the scope of recovery actions for this species. For the purposes of this rulemaking, we are fully considering and responding to comments related to the proposed critical habitat designation and DEA. Although other comments are acknowledged and appreciated, we have not specifically responded to those that are outside of the scope of the proposed rule.
All substantive information provided during comment periods has either been incorporated directly into this final determination or addressed below. Comments received were grouped into 20 general issues specifically relating to the proposed critical habitat designation for the southern Selkirk Mountains population of woodland caribou, and are addressed in the following summary and incorporated into the final rule as appropriate.
In accordance with our policy published on July 1, 1994 (59 FR 34270), we solicited expert opinions from four knowledgeable individuals with scientific expertise that included familiarity with the species, the geographic region in which the species occurs, and conservation biology principles. We received responses from all four peer reviewers.
We reviewed all comments received from the peer reviewers for substantive issues and new information regarding critical habitat for the southern Selkirk Mountains population of woodland caribou. The peer reviewers had differing assessments of our methods and conclusions, and provided additional information, clarifications, and suggestions to improve the final critical habitat rule. Peer reviewer comments are addressed in the following summary and incorporated into the final rule as appropriate.
Scott and Servheen (1984, p. 16; 1985, p. 27), state the following in the background section of their job progress reports on caribou ecology: “As the number of U.S. sightings declined since the early 1970's, concern has mounted that caribou may be abandoning the U.S. portion of their range.” Scott and Servheen (1984, 1985, entire), conducted studies of radio-collared caribou to determine population numbers and composition, and helicopter surveys over significant areas of the Selkirk Mountains within the historic range of woodland caribou in an effort to: (1) Estimate the population size and sex/age composition; (2) determine mortality rates and causes; (3) determine reproductive rates and calving areas; (4) determine seasonal use areas; (5) identify seasonal and year-long habitat utilization patterns; (6) estimate seasonal caribou food habitat preferences; and (7) attempt to achieve a total count of the population. The helicopter surveys covered extensive areas of potential woodland caribou habitat within the Selkirk Mountains in Idaho and Washington (Scott and Servheen 1984, pp. 74-75). During their study, Scott and Servheen (1984, pp. 16-28) documented extensive use by caribou of habitat in Canada, with two bulls utilizing habitat near Little Snowy Top and Upper Hughes Ridge in Idaho and Sullivan Creek in Washington (p. 19). They did not document any caribou further south within Washington or Idaho during the course of the helicopter surveys. We are relying on Scott and Servheen survey results to determine occupancy at the time of listing, since the surveys were conducted during the timeframe in which the population was listed. Consequently, we have determined that the area generally depicted in Scott and Servheen (1984, p. 27), adjusted for
Section 4(i) of the Act states, “the Secretary shall submit to the State agency a written justification for his failure to adopt regulations consistent with the agency's comments or petition.” Comments received from the State of Idaho regarding the proposal to designate critical habitat for the southern Selkirk Mountains population of woodland caribou are addressed below.
In making this final designation of critical habitat for the southern Selkirk Mountains population of woodland caribou, we reviewed information from many different sources, including articles in peer-reviewed journals, scientific status surveys and studies, unpublished materials, and experts' opinions or personal knowledge, to inform the final critical habitat designation. We requested comments or information from other concerned governmental agencies, the scientific community, industry, and other
The State's comments with regard to economic impacts are addressed in the “Comments Related to the Economic Analysis” section below.