Media oversimplify debate on critical habitat for caribou in Idaho, Washington

Posted: Feb 26, 2012

Written by

Kootenai Tribe of Idaho

Indian Country Today Media Network covered the draft critical habitat designation proposed by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) without contacting the Kootenai Tribe, whose territory is affected by the designation. Unfortunately, this coverage exacerbates an already polarizing issue by falsely pitting the economy against the environment.

The Selkirk Mountain subpopulation of woodland caribou historically inhabited Kootenai Territory in what is now north Idaho, northeast Washington and southwest British Columbia. The subpopulation was emergency listed under the U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA) in 1983 with a final listing in 1984. The Canadian federal government listed the entire southern mountain population of woodland caribou under the Species at Risk Act (SARA) in 2002. The Selkirk Mountain subpopulation is the southernmost subpopulation of woodland caribou that exists primarily in British Columbia and Alberta.

The ICTMN article and the linked Associated Press article take the legally and scientifically complex procedures of the Endangered Species Act and condense them at great detriment to the big picture. This opportunity could be used to educate the public about the ongoing process rather than simplifying it to an us-versus-them conflict.

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