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Short-changing mountain caribou

Posted by Joe Scott at Jan 02, 2013 04:00 PM |

The US government is reviewing a petition to remove mountain caribou from protection under the Endangered Species Act. How does such a short-sighted approach serve any species’ genetic fitness or ability to adapt to a changing world? How and where do we resist the constant pressure of special interests to shrink the ranges of plants and animals to ever smaller, more ineffective patches of habitat?

Short-changing mountain caribou

Mountain caribou. Photo: Joe Scott

 

The US Fish and Wildlife Service has announced it will designate 30,010 acres of the Selkirks as critical habitat for mountain caribou, scaling back its original proposal some 90%. Mountain caribou are the one of the most endangered large mammals in North America.

The Service is also reviewing a petition to remove the caribou from protection under the Endangered Species Act filed by the Pacific Legal Foundation on behalf of two Idaho snowmobiling associations. Bryon Holt, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist in Spokane, has said, "We're saying our areas can contribute to caribou survival, but the conservation of the species is probably going to occur in Canada.”

The groups say the caribou's range is mostly in Canada and only a handful of the critters venture south into the U.S. nowadays. It appears as though the US Fish & Wildlife Service is giving up on these iconic animals, the southernmost occurrence of caribou on earth.

Until the actual suitable habitat for mountain caribou disappears from the continental US, it has the potential to contribute to caribou recovery - particularly with large fires posing an increasing threat in the interior West.

It’s true that the majority of mountain caribou habitat is found in Canada, but that doesn’t mean that we in the US can give up and wash our hands of the animals.

By that measure any jurisdiction that lies within the edge of the range of any species, whether caribou, salmon, grizzly bears, orcas, or whatever can simply write them off, especially if they’re presence is inconvenient for any special interest.

How does such a short-sighted approach serve any species’ genetic fitness or ability to adapt to a changing world? How and where do we resist the constant pressure of special interests to shrink the ranges of plants and animals to ever smaller, more ineffective patches of habitat?

 

 

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