[Federal Register: November 1, 2000 (Volume 65, Number 212)]
[Proposed Rules]               
[Page 65287-65288]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]

[[Page 65287]]



Fish and Wildlife Service

50 CFR Part 17

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; 90-Day Finding for 
a Petition To Delist the Woodland Caribou

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of 90-day petition finding.


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announce a 
90-day finding on a petition to remove the woodland caribou (Rangifer 
tarandus caribou) from the Federal list of endangered species pursuant 
to the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act). We find that 
the petition did not present substantial scientific or commercial 
information indicating that delisting of the woodland caribou may be 

DATES: The finding announced in this document was made on October 13, 

ADDRESSES: Data, information, comments, or questions concerning this 
petition should be submitted to the Field Supervisor, Upper Columbia 
River Basin Field Office, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 11103 E. 
Montgomery Drive, Spokane, Washington 99206. The petition finding, 
supporting data, and comments are available for public inspection, by 
appointment, during normal business hours at the above address.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Susan Martin, Supervisor, Upper 
Columbia River Basin Office, at the above address (telephone 509/891-
6839; facsimile 509/891-6748).



    Section 4(b)(3)(A) of the Act (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.) requires 
that we make a finding on whether a petition to list, delist, or 
reclassify a species presents substantial information indicating that 
the petitioned action may be warranted. We base the finding on 
information submitted with, and referenced in, the petition and all 
other information available to us at the time we make the finding. To 
the maximum extent practicable, this finding is to be made within 90 
days of the receipt of the petition, and the finding is to be published 
promptly in the Federal Register. If we find that substantial 
information supports the petitioned action, section 4(b)(3)(B) of the 
Act requires us to promptly commence a review of the status of the 
species and to disclose our findings within 12 months.
    On May 27, 1998, we received a petition dated May 22, 1998, to 
delist the endangered population of woodland caribou (Rangifer tarandus 
caribou), which is located in the Selkirk Mountains of northeast 
Washington, northern Idaho, and southeast British Columbia, Canada. The 
petition was submitted by Peter B. Wilson, representing the Greater 
Bonners Ferry Chamber of Commerce, Bonners Ferry, Idaho.
    In a letter dated June 12, 1998, we notified the petitioner that a 
finding on their petition would be delayed due to a backlog of higher 
priority listing activities. This backlog resulted from a moratorium on 
listing activities enacted by Congress in 1995 and a subsequent series 
of inadequate budgets for listing activities. We now use funding for 
recovery activities to support work on findings for delisting 
petitions, and, therefore, we were able to proceed with this finding.
    The petitioner made a number of assertions in the petition, but the 
main points were--(1) our determination to list and maintain the 
listing of the caribou is based solely on conjecture and inadequate 
research, and no biological reason or need for the listing has been 
established by research and conclusion; (2) there is no significant 
biological distinction between the mountain and woodland caribou, and, 
since there are numerous ``woodland'' caribou in Canada, their listing 
in the United States is not warranted (also, the petitioner contends 
there is a problem with mixing mountain and woodland caribou within the 
Selkirk population); (3) the petitioner has several concerns regarding 
the historical and current range of the woodland caribou and whether or 
not caribou ever inhabited the conterminous United States, including 
Idaho; (4) no environmental impact statement was prepared for the 
listing; (5) caribou mortalities within this population have been high; 
and (6) old growth forest has not been established as a requirement for 
caribou habitat.
    We have reviewed the petition and other documentation to determine 
if substantial information has been presented to indicate that the 
requested action may be warranted. The factors for listing, delisting, 
or reclassifying species are described at 50 CFR 424.11. We may delist 
a species only, after conducting a review of the species status, if the 
best scientific and commercial data available substantiate that it is 
neither endangered nor threatened. Delisting may be warranted as a 
result of--(1) extinction, (2) recovery, or (3) a determination that 
the original data used for classification of the species as endangered 
or threatened were in error.
    Our determination to list the woodland caribou was made on the 
basis of the best scientific and commercial data available (49 FR 7390; 
February 29, 1984). The petition's assertion that the listing of the 
woodland caribou is based solely on conjecture comes from the 
petitioner's interpretation of our revised Recovery Plan for Woodland 
Caribou in the Selkirk Mountains (Recovery Plan). The Recovery Plan 
stated a number of unknowns about caribou biology, population factors, 
and habitat variables. These statements were made in the context of 
gathering the information needed to support recovery actions. Though it 
is true there is much to learn about the caribou, at the time of 
listing, we had enough information to warrant the listing of the 
species, including substantial information on habitat fragmentation, 
poaching, and a genetic bottleneck.
    Regarding the issue of ``woodland'' versus ``mountain'' caribou, 
woodland caribou occur in two distinct ecotypes (a locally adapted 
population of a widespread species): The northern ecotype and the 
mountain ecotype. In woodland caribou, ecotypic differentiation is 
based on habitat use and behavior patterns. The endangered Selkirk 
population is the mountain ecotype. Both ecotypes are within the same 
subspecies; there is no genetic distinction between caribou inhabiting 
the northern ecotype and those inhabiting the mountain ecotype (Service 
    Historically, woodland caribou were distributed across the 
northeastern, northcentral, and northwestern conterminous United States 
(Fashingbauer 1965, cited in Service 1994; McCollough 1991). It is 
well-documented that the species' range was once more extensive than it 
is today. Caribou once occurred as far south as the Salmon River in 
Idaho and as far east as the North Fork of the Flathead River in 
Montana (Evans 1960). Before 1910, they occupied the Selkirk, Cabinet, 
Purcell, and Bitterroot Mountains (Evans 1960; Layser 1974). By the 
1950's, caribou were reduced to about 100 animals occupying about 2,590 
square kilometers (1,000 square miles) in the Selkirk Mountains, with 
remnant bands in the Cabinet and Yaak Mountains (Flinn 1956; Evans 
1960). Although by 1983 the distribution of the

[[Page 65288]]

Selkirk Mountains woodland caribou population centered around Stagleap 
Provincial Park several miles north of the border in British Columbia, 
caribou inhabited the U.S. portion of the Selkirk Ecosystem as well, 
and continue to do so today.
    At the time of listing, we did not distinguish the caribou 
population by State. Caribou movement within home ranges may cross 
State boundaries, and the listing decision was based on the species' 
status within the United States. According to section 3(15) of the Act, 
``species'' can include ``any distinct population segment of any 
species of vertebrate fish or wildlife which interbreeds when mature.'' 
We listed the woodland caribou as a distinct vertebrate population 
segment limited to Idaho, Washington, and that part of southeast 
British Columbia, Canada, bounded by the United States-Canadian border, 
Columbia River, Kootenay River, and Kootenay Lake. The Selkirk Mountain 
population of woodland caribou was listed because its range and 
distribution within the conterminous United States had undergone a 
significant decline and the species was being affected by a variety of 
ongoing threats.
    We did not prepare an environmental impact statement at the time of 
listing the woodland caribou. As stated in the final rule listing the 
woodland caribou published in the Federal Register on October 25, 1983 
(48 FR 49244), we determined that environmental assessments and 
environmental impact statements need not be prepared in connection with 
regulations adopted pursuant to section 4 of the Act. Regulations 
addressing the listing of endangered and threatened species (50 CFR 
424.11) state that listing, reclassification, and delisting decisions 
are to be based solely on the basis of the best scientific and 
commercial information regarding species status, without reference to 
possible economic or other impacts of such determination.
    The petitioners are correct in that the woodland caribou population 
has experienced significant mortalities due to a number of factors. The 
population, which consisted of an estimated 25-30 animals when it was 
listed in 1984, has been augmented with a total of 103 animals over an 
11-year period between 1987 and 1998. In 1998, the population consisted 
of an estimated 44 animals (includes animals recruited into the 
population through reproduction). Fifty-nine of the transplanted 
caribou died over this 11-year period, and the fate of 21 others is 
unknown due to radio-collar loss or failure. However, while this speaks 
to the difficulty and critical nature of the recovery program, it does 
not provide a reason to delist the caribou.
    Seasonal habitat use patterns and forage requirements by woodland 
caribou have been documented by research in northern Idaho and British 
Columbia. Occasionally, caribou have been observed feeding on 
succulent, newly emerging vegetation in clearcuts in the spring. 
However, data show that, even during spring, caribou preferentially use 
old-growth and mature forest habitats as a source of forage (Wakkinen 
et al. 1992). As to use of old-growth during other seasons of the year, 
caribou nearly exclusively use old-growth forest during early winter 
through late spring (Scott and Servheen 1984).
    When evaluating petitions for delisting of species under the Act, 
our guidelines state that a ``not-substantial information'' finding be 
made when a petition to delist a species presents no new information 
indicating the original data for listing the species may be in error 
(Service and National Marine Fisheries Service 1996). We have reviewed 
the petition and other available literature. We conclude the petition 
does not present substantial information to indicate that the original 
data for listing the species was in error, or that delisting the 
Selkirk Mountains woodland caribou may be warranted. Furthermore, the 
species has not met the recovery objectives identified in the 1994 
Recovery Plan, which calls for an increasing population and secure 

References Cited

Evans, H.F. 1960. A preliminary investigation of caribou in 
northwestern United States. Masters Thesis, University of Montana, 
Missoula, Montana. 145 pp.
Flinn, P. 1956. Caribou of Idaho. Unpublished report, Idaho 
Department of Fish and Game, Boise, Idaho. 57 pp. + attachments
Layser, E.F. 1974. A review of the mountain caribou of northeastern 
Washington and adjacent northern Idaho. Journal of the Idaho Academy 
of Science, Special Research Issue No. 3, 63 pp.
McCollough, M. 1991. Final Report--Maine caribou project 1986-1990. 
University of Maine, Orono, Maine. 13 pp. and 24 pp.
Scott, M. and G. Servheen. 1984. Caribou ecology. Unpublished 
report. Idaho Department of Fish and Game. Boise, Idaho. 78 pp.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 1994. Selkirk Mountain woodland 
caribou recovery plan. Portland, Oregon. 63 pp.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries 
Service. 1996. Endangered species petition management guidance. 
Washington, D.C. 20 pp. + appendices
Wakkinen, W.L., B. Compton, and P. Zager. 1992. Selkirk Mountain 
caribou transplant. Unpublished report. Idaho Department of Fish and 
Game, Boise, Idaho. Pages i, iii, 16-18


    The primary author of this document is Suzanne Audet, Fish and 
Wildlife Service, Upper Columbia River Basin Office (see ADDRESSES 


    The authority for this action is the Endangered Species Act (16 
U.S.C. 1531 et seq.).

    Dated: October 13, 2000.
Jamie Rappaport Clark,
Director, Fish and Wildlife Service.
[FR Doc. 00-27232 Filed 10-31-00; 8:45 am]