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Contact: Daniel A. Himebaugh
Staff Attorney
Pacific Legal Foundation - Pacific Northwest Office
(425) 576-0484


Feds are sued over unjustified, job-killing caribou regulations

Bonner County, Idaho; November 15, 2012:  After federal officials ignored a petition to have the Southern Selkirk Mountain caribou population removed from the Endangered Species Act list, attorneys with Pacific Legal Foundation today filed a lawsuit in federal court to compel a response from the government.

PLF attorneys represent Bonner County, which has been hit hard economically because of the caribou listing, and the Idaho State Snowmobile Association, whose thousands of members have been unjustifiably barred from using recreational trails.

CaribouThe petition that PLF and its clients submitted to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service last May notes that the caribou population in Bonner County and the surrounding area isn’t distinct in a legally relevant way that would support federal regulation.

“The delisting petition that we submitted in May was based on the government’s own science,” said PLF attorney Daniel Himebaugh. “As we pointed out, the federal government’s findings suggest that the caribou population should be dropped from the ESA list. The problem is the Service did not look at the Selkirk caribou population in relation to the caribou species as a whole. The government singled out a small population without determining whether it was legally discrete or significant in the manner that the ESA requires.”

“Unfortunately, the government has not responded to our petition,” Himebaugh continued. “The agency is not serving the taxpayers, or the cause of responsible environmental regulation, by ignoring legitimate questions about its policies. Therefore, on behalf of our clients, and all taxpayers, we’re forced to tell the agency, ‘we’ll see you in court.’”

The listing’s economic threat extends to school funding

The economic impact of the unjustified caribou listing threatens to intensify under the federal government’s proposal to designate 375,562 acres as “critical caribou habitat” in Idaho’s Bonner and Boundary counties and Washington’s Pend Oreille County. New restrictions could be triggered on logging and road building, as well as winter recreation.

Governor Butch Otter’s Office of Species Conservation pointed out to the Spokane Spokesman-Review that the proposed critical habitat includes tens of thousands of acres of state timberland that generates funding for public schools. The new habitat restrictions reportedly could cost the state millions of dollars in lost revenue.

Bonner County Commissioner Mike Nielsen
Mike Nielsen
Bonner County Commissioner

County commissioner: Jobs are at stake — as well as accountability in government

Bonner County Commissioner Mike Nielsen issued this statement: “There are hundreds of thousands of caribou on the North American continent, so there is no justification for putting Idaho caribou on the ESA list and imposing job-killing land use restrictions as a result.

“This regulatory overkill puts winter tourism and recreation on the endangered list. It’s very disappointing that we now have to go to court, because federal officials ignored our petition that was based on their own findings. With our court case, we’re attempting to enforce reasonable environmental policies — and accountability on the part of federal regulators.”

Snowmobilers: we support science-based environmental policies

The Idaho State Snowmobile Association (ISSA) is a statewide organization representing approximately 4,000 people, including 41 clubs, individuals, and many businesses throughout Idaho. Approximately 54,000 snowmobiles are registered in Idaho each year.

Sandra Mitchell, ISSA’s public lands director, issued this statement: “This lawsuit was necessary, unfortunately, because federal officials would not respond to the petition we’ve already filed, showing that caribou in Idaho don’t belong on the ESA list.

“The caribou listing is closing off recreational opportunities for thousands of people, and undermining the tourism industry, without scientific basis, without a showing that recreationists cause harm to caribou.

“ISSA members don’t want to endanger any species. We have gone to court because our freedoms, and the region’s recreational economy, are endangered by unjustified regulations.”

PLF represents both the County and ISSA free of charge — as it does for all its clients.

About Pacific Legal Foundation
Donor-supported Pacific Legal Foundation is the leading legal watchdog organization that litigates for limited government, property rights, and a balanced approach to environ¬mental regulations, in courts across the country. Among its noteworthy species-regulation cases, PLF won the federal court ruling that removed the bald eagle from the federal ESA list.

PLF’s recent victory in Sackett v. EPA was its sixth precedent-setting victory for liberty and limited government at the U.S. Supreme Court. Less than six months after the unanimous ruling in Sackett, the Supreme Court recently accepted another PLF property-rights case for review — Koontz v. St. Johns River Water Management District. Oral argument is scheduled for January 15, 2013.