Southern mountain caribou listed as Endangered
ConservationNWAdmin / Oct 03, 2019 / British Columbia, Caribou, Forestry
This week, the U.S. FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE RULED that southern mountain caribou will be listed as endangered, a ruling Conservation Northwest and other groups have advocated for for years. In response, We released THE following statement:
“We applaud the Service’s ruling affirming the Endangered status of southern mountain caribou, a unique ecotype of woodland caribou,” said Joe Scott, Conservation Northwest International Programs Director.
We agree that southern mountain caribou herds are:
- highly fragmented and are not functioning as a metapopulation,
- southern mountain caribou are discrete from northern woodland caribou according to criteria of the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS),
- and that the southern herds (including those of the South Selkirks and South Purcells) are isolated from other herds to the north and will not recover on their own.
“We are encouraged that the Service finds that our region’s native caribou meet their criteria for significance and discreteness—which is indicative of the uniqueness of the animal and its behavioral and feeding habits from a continental and global perspective,” said Scott. “Animals like this are found nowhere else on earth.”
Importantly, the USFWS ruling states “the extirpation of peripheral populations, such as the southern mountain caribou population, is concerning because of the potential conservation value that peripheral populations can provide to a species or subspecies”, meaning that animals like southern mountain caribou are valuable to the species as a whole because they’ve adapted to particularly challenging habitat conditions.
“The genotypic and phenotypic characteristics peripheral populations may provide to the core population of the species may be central to the species’ survival in the face of environmental change,” writes the agency.
Although Conservation Northwest and other groups feel that Services’ designated caribou Critical Habitat is minimal, we urge continued protection of caribou habitat into the future to accommodate a recovering population—and for the states and federal partners to institute strategies to restore broader, landscape scale old-growth conditions in the region.
“We recommend that the U.S. government communicate with the Canadian and British Columbian provincial governments on the urgency of achieving tripartite agreements to protect adequate caribou habitat; and that US government commit resources to the Canadian efforts including cooperation on programs like captive breeding,” said Scott.