Lawsuit seeks critical habitat for caribou
The lawsuit filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Spokane names U.S. Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dale Hall as defendants.
"Caribou is by far the most endangered species in this country," Mike Petersen, executive director of the Lands Council in Spokane, told The Spokesman-Review. "There are only a few dozen left. We feel that just ignoring the problem like the Bush administration has done is not a solution to recovery."
Besides the Lands Council, other plaintiffs are Defenders of Wildlife, Selkirk Conservation Alliance, and the Center for Biological Diversity.
The groups said the federal agencies named in the lawsuit have failed to rule on a petition the groups submitted six years ago concerning designating critical habitat for the caribou.
The lawsuit asks that the agencies be forced to either grant or deny the petition.
"We do expect a ruling to be issued under the Obama administration," Boggs said.
However, she said federal officials initially declined to designate critical habitat for fear poachers would then learn where to find the caribou.
She also said the agency's resources for designating critical habitat had been drained due to the cost of defending against lawsuits.
About 40 caribou roam between the two states and into Canada, Boggs said.
"Any animal that lives on arboreal lichens has a pretty tough time," said Boggs.
Petersen said the designation would help the U.S. Forest Service in determining a winter a recreation plan the agency is developing for 400,000 acres surrounding northern Idaho's Priest Lake, a favored snowmobiling area.
Much of that area is being managed by court order as a result of lawsuits by environmental groups who said federal agencies had failed to protect caribou from increasing numbers of snowmobilers.
Click here to find out more about The Lands Council's work to protect caribou.