COEUR D’ALENE, Idaho — The cost over the next two decades to protect old-growth habitat for endangered woodland caribou in northern Idaho and northeast Washington will be about $1.5 million, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said.
“We don’t want to dismiss that there are costs associated with protecting caribou or managing caribou,” Bryon Holt, a biologist for Fish and Wildlife, told The Spokesman-Review in a story published Thursday.
The 87-page draft economic analysis also found the timber industry in rare circumstances could face up to three-year delays for some logging operations.
But Holt said the analysis also confirmed the agency’s belief that designating critical caribou habitat will have little change on day-to-day use of public and private forests.
The agency has proposed designating more than 375,500 acres in the Selkirk Mountains as critical habitat for the endangered caribou. Most of the federal land is in Idaho’s Bonner and Boundary counties and nearby Washington state’s Pend Oreille County.
Bonner County officials want federal protections removed from woodland caribou and have hired the Pacific Legal Foundation, which plans to argue the southern Selkirk caribou herd isn’t a distinct population and isn’t eligible to be listed as an endangered species.
Bonner County and the Idaho State Snowmobile Association are working on their own economic analysis for the cost of caribou protection. That report is due Monday.
“We’d like to be able to compare their report with our report,” said Mike Nielsen, a Bonner County commissioner.
Public comments on the Fish and Wildlife’s draft analysis, done by Industrial Economics Inc., a consultant in Cambridge, Mass., are being taken through July 2.
Commissioners have said the caribou habitat protection plan will result in new restrictions on logging, snowmobiling and forest access, costing the region money in jobs and tourism.
Woodland caribou, rarely seen creatures with antlers that stand as tall as a man, are struggling to survive in the United States, precariously occupying one remote area of the Northwest as a final toehold in the Lower 48. Only four caribou were counted south of the Canadian border during an aerial census last winter.
Federal endangered species law requires that critical habitat be set aside for the caribou, and environmental groups want a court to force the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to comply.