[Federal Register Volume 77, Number 229 (Wednesday, November 28, 2012)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 71041-71082]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2012-28512]



[[Page 71041]]

Vol. 77

Wednesday,

No. 229

November 28, 2012

Part II





Department of the Interior





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Fish and Wildlife Service





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50 CFR Part 17





Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Designation of Critical 
Habitat for the Southern Selkirk Mountains Population of Woodland 
Caribou; Final Rule

Federal Register / Vol. 77 , No. 229 / Wednesday, November 28, 2012 / 
Rules and Regulations

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DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR

Fish and Wildlife Service

50 CFR Part 17

[Docket No. FWS-R1-ES-2011-0096: 4500030114]
RIN 1018-AX38


Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Designation of 
Critical Habitat for the Southern Selkirk Mountains Population of 
Woodland Caribou

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Final rule.

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SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, designate critical 
habitat for the southern Selkirk Mountains population of woodland 
caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou) under the Endangered Species Act. 
In total, approximately 30,010 acres (12,145 hectares) is being 
designated as critical habitat. The critical habitat is located in 
Boundary County, Idaho, and Pend Oreille County, Washington. We are 
finalizing this action in compliance with our obligation under the Act 
and in compliance with a court-approved settlement agreement. The 
effect of this regulation is to conserve the habitat essential to the 
southern Selkirk Mountains population of woodland caribou.

DATES: This rule becomes effective on December 28, 2012.

ADDRESSES: This final rule and the associated final economic analysis 
are available on the Internet at http://www.regulations.gov. Comments 
and materials received, as well as supporting documentation used in 
preparing this final rule, are available for public inspection, by 
appointment, during normal business hours, at the U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service, Idaho Fish and Wildlife Office, 1387 S. Vinnell Way, 
Room 368, Boise, ID 83709; telephone 208-378-5243; facsimile 208-378-
5262.
    The coordinates or plot points or both from which the map for this 
critical habitat designation was generated are included in the 
administrative record and are available at http://www.fws.gov/idaho/SpeciesNews.htm, at http://www.regulations.gov at Docket No. FWS-R1-ES-
2011-0096, and at the Idaho Fish and Wildlife Office (see FOR FURTHER 
INFORMATION CONTACT). Any additional tools or supporting information 
developed for this critical habitat designation is available at the 
Fish and Wildlife Service Web site and Field Office set out above, and 
may also be on http://www.regulations.gov.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Brian Kelly, State Supervisor, U.S. 
Fish and Wildlife Service, Idaho Fish and Wildlife Office (see 
ADDRESSES). If you use a telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD), 
call the Federal Information Relay Service (FIRS) at 800-877-8339.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: 

Executive Summary

    Why we need to publish a rule. This is a final rule to designate 
critical habitat for the southern Selkirk Mountains population of 
woodland caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou), currently listed as an 
endangered species under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended 
(16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.) (Act). Under the Act, any species that is 
determined to be an endangered or threatened species requires critical 
habitat to be designated, to the maximum extent prudent and 
determinable. Designations and revisions of critical habitat can only 
be completed through rulemaking. The critical habitat area we are 
designating in this rule constitutes our current best assessment of the 
areas that meet the definition of critical habitat for the southern 
Selkirk Mountains population of woodland caribou. Here we are 
designating approximately 30,010 acres (ac) (12,145 hectares (ha)) in 
one unit within Boundary County, Idaho, and Pend Oreille County, 
Washington, as critical habitat for the southern Selkirk Mountains 
population of woodland caribou. This designation represents a reduction 
of approximately 345,552 ac (139,840 ha) from the critical habitat 
originally proposed for designation (76 FR 74018, November 30, 2011); 
and reflects a 1,000 foot (ft) (about 300 meter (m)) change in 
elevation from 4,000 ft (1,220 m) in the proposed rule, to an elevation 
at or above 5,000 ft (1,520 m) in the final critical habitat 
designation. Literature and information we have reviewed, and peer 
review comments received, confirm that although caribou may use 
elevations below 5,000 ft (1,520 m), habitats at this elevation and 
above are essential to their conservation. This revision is more fully 
explained in the ``Criteria Used to Define Critical Habitat'' section. 
The primary factors that were considered and influenced this change 
from the proposed rule included: (1) A revised determination of the 
geographical area occupied by the southern Selkirk Mountains population 
of woodland caribou at the time of listing, based on comments we 
received, including peer reviewers, which caused us to reevaluate 
surveys conducted by Scott and Servheen (1984, 1985); (2) census 
monitoring documenting low numbers of individual caribou observed in 
the United States during those annual surveys; (3) caribou observations 
within the United States for several years have consistently been 
limited to areas close to the United States-Canada border; (4) 
information and literature reporting the overall decline of the 
subspecies mountain caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou) across its 
range, and in particular the decline of woodland caribou populations in 
the southern extent of their range, including the southern Selkirk 
Mountains population of woodland caribou; (5) information on areas 
currently conserved and managed for the conservation of woodland 
caribou in the Selkirk Mountains in British Columbia, Canada, including 
the status of the Canadian recovery actions for mountain caribou; and 
(6) the applicability as well as the status of the recovery objectives 
identified in the 1994 Selkirk Mountains Woodland Caribou Recovery Plan 
(USFWS 1994).
    All of the area being designated as critical habitat is federally 
owned lands under management of the U.S. Forest Service (USFS). The 
areas being designated were occupied at the time of listing under the 
Act (49 FR 7390: February 29, 1984), and are essential to the 
conservation of the southern Selkirk Mountains population of woodland 
caribou.
    We have prepared an economic analysis of the designation of 
critical habitat. In order to consider economic impacts, we have 
prepared an analysis of the economic impacts of the critical habitat 
designation and related factors. We announced the availability of the 
draft economic analysis (DEA) in the Federal Register on May 31, 2012 
(77 FR 32075), allowing the public to provide comments on our analysis. 
We have incorporated the comments and have completed the final economic 
analysis (FEA) concurrently with this final determination.
    Peer review and public comment. We sought comments from independent 
specialists to ensure that our designation is based on scientifically 
sound data and analyses. We obtained opinions from four knowledgeable 
individuals with scientific expertise to review our technical 
assumptions, analysis, and whether or not we had used the best 
available information. These peer reviewers provided additional 
information, clarifications, and suggestions to improve this final 
rule. Information we received from peer review is incorporated in this 
final critical habitat designation. We also considered all comments and

[[Page 71043]]

information received from the public during the comment periods.

Background

    It is our intent to discuss in this final rule only those topics 
directly relevant to the development and designation of critical 
habitat for the southern Selkirk Mountains population of woodland 
caribou under the Act (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.). For more information on 
the biology and ecology of the southern Selkirk Mountains population of 
woodland caribou, refer to the final listing rule published in the 
Federal Register on February 29, 1984 (49 FR 7390), and the 1985 final 
recovery plan (USFWS 1985), which was revised in 1994 (USFWS 1994), and 
is available from the Idaho Fish and Wildlife Office (see ADDRESSES 
section). For information on southern Selkirk Mountains population of 
woodland caribou proposed critical habitat, refer to the proposed rule 
published in the Federal Register on November 30, 2011 (76 FR 74018). 
Information on the associated DEA for the proposed rule to designate 
revised critical habitat was published in the Federal Register on May 
31, 2012 (77 FR 32075).

Nomenclature

    In 1984, we published a final rule listing the transboundary 
population of woodland caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou) found in 
Idaho, Washington, and southern British Columbia, `` * * * sometimes 
known as the southern Selkirk Mountain herd'' (49 FR 7390; February 29, 
1984). At that time woodland caribou, including the transboundary 
population, were a recognized subspecies of caribou (R. tarandus). 
Within the woodland caribou subspecies, caribou populations are often 
further divided into three different ``ecotypes'': Boreal, northern, 
and mountain, based on differences in habitat use, feeding behavior, 
and migration patterns (Hatter 2000, p. 631; Mountain Caribou Science 
Team 2005, p. 1).
    The southern Selkirk Mountains population of woodland caribou is 
included within the mountain caribou ecotype (mountain caribou) that 
currently occupies southeastern British Columbia (B.C.), northern 
Idaho, and northeastern Washington near the international border to 
northeast of Prince George (Wittmer et al. 2005, p. 408). The mountain 
caribou ecotype is distinguished from other woodland caribou ecotypes 
by behavioral and ecological characteristics, rather than genetic 
characteristics that conclude all woodland caribou ecotypes are 
genetically similar (Mountain Caribou Science Team 2005, p. 1). The 
mountain caribou ecotype is closely associated with high-elevation, 
late-successional, coniferous forests where their primary winter food, 
arboreal lichens, occurs.
    The term ``mountain caribou'' is a common designation used 
throughout the scientific literature to describe the mountain/arboreal-
lichen feeding ecotype of woodland caribou populations found in the 
mountainous regions of southeastern British Columbia, including the 
transboundary southern Selkirk Mountains population of woodland caribou 
(Mountain Caribou Science Team 2005, p. 1). In this final rule, use of 
the term mountain caribou refers to descriptions of the subspecies 
woodland caribou in general, and we use the term southern Selkirk 
Mountains population of woodland caribou when referencing the listed 
transboundary population.

Previous Federal Actions

    In 1980, the Service received petitions to list the South Selkirk 
Mountains population of woodland caribou as endangered under the 
Endangered Species Act from the Idaho Department of Fish and Game 
(IDFG) and Dean Carrier, a U.S. Forest Service (USFS) staff biologist 
and former chairman of the International Mountain Caribou Technical 
Committee (IMCTC). At that time, the population was believed to consist 
of 13 to 20 animals (48 FR 1722). Following a review of the petition 
and other data readily available, the southern Selkirk Mountains 
woodland caribou population in northeastern Washington, northern Idaho, 
and southeastern B.C. was listed as endangered under the Act's 
emergency procedures on January 14, 1983 (48 FR 1722). A second 
emergency rule was published on October 25, 1983 (48 FR 49245), and a 
final rule listing the southern Selkirk Mountains woodland caribou 
population as endangered was published on February 29, 1984 (49 FR 
7390). The designation of critical habitat was determined to be not 
prudent at that time, since increased poaching could result from the 
publication of maps showing areas used by the species. A Management 
Plan/Recovery Plan for Selkirk Caribou was approved by the Service in 
1985 (USFWS 1985), and revised in 1994 (USFWS 1994).
    Notices of 90-day findings on two petitions to delist the southern 
Selkirk Mountains population of woodland caribou were published in the 
Federal Register on November 29, 1993 (58 FR 62623), and November 1, 
2000 (65 FR 65287). Both petitions were submitted by Mr. Peter B. 
Wilson, representing the Greater Bonners Ferry Chamber of Commerce, in 
Bonners Ferry, Idaho. Our response to both petitions stated that the 
petitions did not present substantial scientific or commercial 
information indicating that delisting of the woodland caribou may be 
warranted.
    On August 17, 2005, a complaint was filed in Federal district court 
challenging two biological opinions issued by the Service, and USFS 
management actions within southern Selkirk Mountains caribou habitat 
and the recovery area. The plaintiffs included Defenders of Wildlife, 
Conservation Northwest, the Lands Council, Selkirk Conservation 
Alliance, Idaho Conservation League, and Center for Biological 
Diversity. The lawsuit challenged, in part, no jeopardy biological 
opinions on the USFS Land and Resource Management Plans for the Idaho 
Panhandle (IPNF) and Colville (CNF) National Forests, and the USFS' 
failure to comply with the incidental take statements in the biological 
opinions.
    In December 2005, the Court granted a preliminary injunction 
prohibiting snowmobile trail grooming within the caribou recovery area 
on the IPNF during the winter of 2005-2006. In November 2006, the Court 
granted a modified injunction restricting snowmobiling and snowmobile 
trail grooming on portions of the IPNF within the southern Selkirk 
Mountains caribou recovery area. On February 14, 2007, the Court 
ordered a modification of the current injunction to add a protected 
caribou travel corridor connecting habitat in the United States portion 
of the southern Selkirk Mountains with habitat in British Columbia. 
This injunction is currently in effect, pending the completion of 
section 7 consultation on the IPNF's proposed winter travel plan.
    On April 11, 2006, a notice of initiation of 5-year reviews for 70 
species in Idaho, Oregon, Washington, and Hawaii, and Guam was 
published in the Federal Register (69 FR 18345), including the southern 
Selkirk Mountains population of woodland caribou. The Southern Selkirk 
Mountains Caribou Population 5-Year Review was completed December 5, 
2008 (USFWS, 2008a).
    On December 6, 2002, the Defenders of Wildlife, Lands Council, 
Selkirk Conservation Alliance, and Center for Biological Diversity 
(plaintiffs) petitioned the Service to designate critical habitat for 
the endangered southern Selkirk Mountains population of woodland 
caribou. On February 10, 2003, we acknowledged receipt of the 
plaintiff's petition, and stated we were unable to address the petition 
at that

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time due to budgetary constraints. On January 15, 2009, a complaint for 
declaratory and injunctive relief (Defenders of Wildlife et al., v. 
Salazar, CV-09-15-EFS) was filed in Federal District Court, alleging 
that the Service's failure to make a decision more than 6 years after 
the petition was submitted violated the Administrative Procedure Act (5 
U.S.C. 551-559, 701-706). In a stipulated settlement agreement, we 
agreed to make a critical habitat prudency determination, and if 
determined to be prudent, to submit a proposed critical habitat rule to 
the Federal Register on or before November 20, 2011, which was 
accomplished. We also agreed to deliver a final critical habitat rule 
to the Federal Register by November 20, 2012.
    A proposed rule (76 FR 74018) to designate approximately 375,562 ac 
(151,985 ha) as critical habitat in Boundary and Bonner Counties in 
Idaho, and Pend Oreille County in Washington was submitted to the 
Federal Register on November 20, 2011, and published on November 30, 
2011.
    On May 9, 2012, we received a petition dated May 9, 2012, from 
Bonner County, Idaho, and the Idaho State Snowmobile Association, which 
calls into question whether the southern Selkirk Mountains population 
of woodland caribou is a listable entity under the Act. We are 
developing a response to that petition.

Summary of Comments and Recommendations

    We requested written comments from the public on the proposed 
designation of critical habitat for the southern Selkirk Mountains 
population of woodland caribou during three comment periods. The first 
comment period, associated with the publication of the proposed rule 
(76 FR 74018), opened on November 30, 2011, and closed on January 30, 
2012. We contacted Federal, State, Tribal, and local agencies, 
scientific organizations, and other interested parties and invited them 
to comment on the proposed rule. In response to a request we received 
during the first public comment period from Idaho's Governor C.L. 
``Butch'' Otter, the Kootenai Tribe of Idaho, and Boundary County, 
Idaho, to allow the public more time to submit comments and to hold an 
informational session and public hearing, we opened a second comment 
period on March 21, 2012 (77 FR 16512), for an additional 60 days. The 
Service-hosted informational session and public hearing were held in 
Bonner's Ferry, Idaho, on April 28, 2012. A third public comment 
period, associated with the publication of the DEA of the proposed 
designation and an amended required determinations section, opened on 
May 31, 2012, and closed on July 2, 2012 (77 FR 32075). The Service 
hosted an additional informational session and public hearing during 
this comment period on June 16, 2012, in Coolin, Idaho.
    In acknowledgement of our responsibility to work directly with 
tribes, and to make information available regarding the proposed 
critical habitat designation, the Service met with the Kootenai Tribe 
of Idaho on January 9, 2012, in Bonners Ferry, Idaho, and participated 
on conference calls with the Kootenai Tribe of Idaho on May 24, 2012. 
The Service also discussed the proposal with the Kalispel Tribe of 
Indians on several occasions, including February 23, March 12, and 
April 26, 2012.
    The Service also responded to several requests for public 
information and coordination meetings, including: (1) the Kootenai 
Valley Resource Initiative (KVRI) on January 9, 2012, in Bonners Ferry, 
Idaho; (2) the Bonner County Commissioners on January 24, February 28, 
March 26, and June 4, 2012, in Bonner County, Idaho; and (3) the 
Boundary County Commissioners on April 19, 2012, in Boundary County, 
Idaho.
    During the first 60-day comment period, we received 172 comment 
letters addressing the proposed critical habitat designation. During 
the second 60-day comment period, we received an additional 118 
comments from individuals or organizations, with an additional 37 
written or oral comments provided at the April 28, 2012, public hearing 
in Bonner's Ferry, Idaho. During the third and final comment period, we 
received 10 comments on the proposal and the DEA, and testimony from 11 
individuals at the public hearing.
    During the public comments periods, comments were received from 
Federal, State, and local agencies, peer reviewers with scientific 
expertise, the Kootenai Tribe of Idaho, the Kalispel Tribe of Indians, 
the Canadian Government, private citizens, nongovernmental 
organizations, private companies, business owners, elected officials, 
recreational user groups, commercial and trade organizations, and 
others. Approximately 60 unique individual comments received were 
generally supportive of the proposed rule, while approximately 70 
unique individual comments were in opposition to the proposed rule. 
Through campaigns sponsored by nongovernmental organizations, we 
received an additional 64,258 comments in support of the proposed 
designation consisting entirely of template letters.
    The Service received many comments outside the scope of this 
rulemaking, including issues such as: (a) Threats to the species such 
as recreation, fires, and road building, management and control of 
predators and or prey species, previous actions taken by the Service to 
introduce or protect other listed species such as gray wolves (Canis 
lupus), grizzly bears (Ursus arctos horribilis), Canada lynx (Lynx 
canadensis), and others (see further discussion below); (b) strengths 
or weaknesses of the Endangered Species Act, and whether the Act should 
be changed or eliminated; (c) the taxonomic description of the southern 
Selkirk Mountains population of woodland caribou, its current listing 
status as an endangered species, and whether the population is extinct; 
(d) a recent petition received by the Service to delist the species; 
(e) addressing Highway 3 in Canada as a migration barrier; (f) hunting 
practices or regulations; and (g) that the proposed rule to designate 
critical habitat is in response to an ``agenda'' put forth by 
``environmental groups.''
    We received numerous comments specific to the threat of predation 
on the southern Selkirk Mountains population of woodland caribou, with 
many stating that gray wolves and other species such as grizzly bear, 
black bear (Ursus americanus), Canada lynx, and others are preying on 
caribou and should be managed. The Service acknowledges that predation 
is one of several important factors affecting this population of 
woodland caribou. In fact, predation is discussed frequently in the 
proposed rule, including under Physical or Biological Features (PBFs), 
where we described the need for: (1) Caribou to disperse in low numbers 
at high elevation; (2) large contiguous areas to avoid predators; and 
(3) female caribou to be able to access high-elevation alpine areas for 
calving, which are likely to be predator free. Predation is also 
addressed in the 1994 Recovery Plan (USFWS 1994) as a factor 
potentially affecting the status of the caribou population. Although 
addressing the threat of predation is outside of the scope of this 
rule, the Service agrees that successful caribou conservation and 
recovery efforts will need to address predation on the southern Selkirk 
Mountains population of woodland caribou, which will require effective 
coordination with other Federal and State agencies, the Coleville and 
Idaho Panhandle National Forests, tribes, and Canada.

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    Similarly, we received numerous comments regarding the 
effectiveness of past augmentation efforts to supplement the southern 
Selkirk Mountains population of woodland caribou, which were conducted 
by the Service, Canada, and State wildlife agencies. Efforts to augment 
the existing woodland caribou population with 103 animals from source 
herds in British Columbia between 1987 and 1990, and 1996 and 1998, 
have not resulted in a long-term improvement in caribou distribution 
throughout the southern Selkirk Mountains. A large number of the 
transplanted caribou died within the first year of augmentation, and 
there has been no long term increase in the population (USFWS 2008a). 
The number of woodland caribou detected in the United States has 
continued to dwindle, and annual census surveys continue to find the 
bulk of the remaining population occupying habitats in British 
Columbia. The most recent census information demonstrates a decline 
from 46 caribou in 2009 to 27 animals in 2012, although the cause of 
this decline has not been described (Degroot and Wakkinen 2012, p.2). 
The 2011 survey documented zero caribou in the United States, and the 
2012 survey documented 4 caribou on Little Snowy Top Mountain, Idaho. 
No other tracks were observed in the United States (DeGroot and 
Wakkinen 2012, p. 5).
    Although important and integral to the population's recovery, 
addressing threats such as predation, as well as efforts to stabilize 
or increase the southern Selkirk Mountains population of woodland 
caribou, are outside of the scope of this rulemaking. These issues will 
be addressed, as appropriate, within the scope of recovery actions for 
this species. For the purposes of this rulemaking, we are fully 
considering and responding to comments related to the proposed critical 
habitat designation and DEA. Although other comments are acknowledged 
and appreciated, we have not specifically responded to those that are 
outside of the scope of the proposed rule.
    All substantive information provided during comment periods has 
either been incorporated directly into this final determination or 
addressed below. Comments received were grouped into 20 general issues 
specifically relating to the proposed critical habitat designation for 
the southern Selkirk Mountains population of woodland caribou, and are 
addressed in the following summary and incorporated into the final rule 
as appropriate.

Peer Review

    In accordance with our policy published on July 1, 1994 (59 FR 
34270), we solicited expert opinions from four knowledgeable 
individuals with scientific expertise that included familiarity with 
the species, the geographic region in which the species occurs, and 
conservation biology principles. We received responses from all four 
peer reviewers.
    We reviewed all comments received from the peer reviewers for 
substantive issues and new information regarding critical habitat for 
the southern Selkirk Mountains population of woodland caribou. The peer 
reviewers had differing assessments of our methods and conclusions, and 
provided additional information, clarifications, and suggestions to 
improve the final critical habitat rule. Peer reviewer comments are 
addressed in the following summary and incorporated into the final rule 
as appropriate.

Peer Review Comments

    (1) Comment: One peer reviewer commented that the proposed rule was 
very thorough and accurate, but the reviewer did not submit any 
additional comments. The three peer reviewers who did provide 
substantive comments stated that the entire area we proposed for 
designation as critical habitat was not likely occupied by the species 
at the time of listing, and stated that the February 29, 1984, final 
rule listing the species (49 FR 7390) did not define ``occupancy'', but 
rather identified a ``total approximate area of normal utilization'' 
within the conterminous United States (U.S.). These peer reviewers 
primarily point to aerial surveys and telemetry studies of radio-
collared caribou at the time of listing (Scott and Servheen 1984) as 
the basis for their comment on occupancy. This study documented caribou 
primarily utilizing habitat in British Columbia, (B.C.), Canada, and 
those areas in the United States immediately adjacent to the 
international boundary with Canada. This was a comment also made by the 
State of Idaho, the Kootenai Tribe of Idaho, and numerous other public 
commenters.
    Our Response: In developing our proposed critical habitat rule, we 
reviewed the final listing rule (49 FR 7390) to identify the specific 
areas within the geographical area occupied by the southern Selkirk 
Mountains population of woodland caribou at the time of listing. These 
areas also contained the physical or biological features essential to 
the conservation of these caribou, which may require special management 
considerations or protections, and therefore met the definition of 
critical habitat under section 3(5)(A) of the Act. Neither the January 
14, 1983, emergency listing (48 FR 1722), nor the February 29, 1984, 
final listing rule (49 FR 7390), defined ``occupancy'', but these rules 
did refer to the ``approximate area of utilization'' (48 FR 1723), and 
``area of normal utilization'' (49 FR 7390). We therefore equated 
``occupancy at the time of listing'' with the ``approximate area of 
utilization'' and ``area of normal utilization'' in the proposed rule. 
However, comments submitted by the peer reviewers caused us to 
reexamine the basis of our analysis pertaining to the geographical area 
occupied by the species in 1983.
    Scott and Servheen (1984, p. 16; 1985, p. 27), state the following 
in the background section of their job progress reports on caribou 
ecology: ``As the number of U.S. sightings declined since the early 
1970's, concern has mounted that caribou may be abandoning the U.S. 
portion of their range.'' Scott and Servheen (1984, 1985, entire), 
conducted studies of radio-collared caribou to determine population 
numbers and composition, and helicopter surveys over significant areas 
of the Selkirk Mountains within the historic range of woodland caribou 
in an effort to: (1) Estimate the population size and sex/age 
composition; (2) determine mortality rates and causes; (3) determine 
reproductive rates and calving areas; (4) determine seasonal use areas; 
(5) identify seasonal and year-long habitat utilization patterns; (6) 
estimate seasonal caribou food habitat preferences; and (7) attempt to 
achieve a total count of the population. The helicopter surveys covered 
extensive areas of potential woodland caribou habitat within the 
Selkirk Mountains in Idaho and Washington (Scott and Servheen 1984, pp. 
74-75). During their study, Scott and Servheen (1984, pp. 16-28) 
documented extensive use by caribou of habitat in Canada, with two 
bulls utilizing habitat near Little Snowy Top and Upper Hughes Ridge in 
Idaho and Sullivan Creek in Washington (p. 19). They did not document 
any caribou further south within Washington or Idaho during the course 
of the helicopter surveys. We are relying on Scott and Servheen survey 
results to determine occupancy at the time of listing, since the 
surveys were conducted during the timeframe in which the population was 
listed. Consequently, we have determined that the area generally 
depicted in Scott and Servheen (1984, p. 27), adjusted for

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elevation and habitat based on the seasonal habitat suitability model 
developed by Kinley and Apps (2007, entire) for the southern Selkirk 
Mountains ecosystem, represents the best available scientific 
information regarding the geographical area occupied by the southern 
Selkirk Mountains population of woodland caribou at the time of 
listing. Based on the best available information, we are designating 
30,010 ac (12,145 ha) of critical habitat for the southern Selkirk 
Mountains population of woodland caribou in the United States. These 
areas were known to be occupied at the time of listing in 1983 and 
1984, they are essential to the conservation of the species, they 
require special management, and they therefore meet the definition of 
critical habitat under section 3(5)(A)(i) of the Act.
    (2) Comment: One peer reviewer commented that the characterization 
of six seasonal habitats (early winter, late winter, spring, calving, 
summer, and fall) for the southern Selkirk Mountains population of 
woodland caribou in the proposed rule was inaccurate, as it is based on 
older scientific information, and suggested more recent scientific 
information describing caribou seasonal habitats based on distinct 
shifts in caribou elevation use is a more proper characterization of 
caribou seasonal habitats.
    Our Response: We agree and have changed the seasonal definitions in 
the final rule to reflect the five seasonal definitions identified by 
Kinley and Apps (2007), which are: Early winter (October 17 to January 
18), late winter (January 19 to April 19), spring (April 20 to July 7), 
calving (June 1 to July 7), and summer (July 8 to October 16).
    (3) Comment: Two peer reviewers commented that the proposed rule 
inaccurately identifies early winter as the season during which caribou 
typically make the longest within-season (intra-seasonal) landscape 
movements. One peer reviewer noted that the stated range from several 
to 30 mi (48 km) of movement during the winter season in the proposed 
rule was inaccurate as well. Both reviewers referenced research 
conducted by Wakkinen and Slone (2010), which analyzed seasonal 
movement patterns of radio-collared caribou from 1988 to 2006, and 
found that caribou typically make the longest movements during spring 
and summer seasons. One peer reviewer noted that Wakkinen and Slone's 
(2010) analysis did not detect any difference in the median distance of 
movement by caribou between seasons (interseasonal).
    Our Response: The identification of winter seasonal movement 
distances stated in the proposed rule was obtained from a USFS report 
(USFS 2004, p. 22), which used a compilation of historic and more 
recent anecdotal observations of caribou movements and radio-collared 
caribou to provide a range for caribou movements. Wakkinen and Slone's 
(2010) analysis, which is based on over 4,000 radio telemetry points 
obtained from 66 individual caribou over an 18-year period from 1988 to 
2006, provided median values for intra- and interseasonal movements. As 
Wakkinen and Slone's (2010) report is more recent and is scientifically 
robust, we have incorporated their findings into the language of this 
final rule.
    (4) Comment: One peer reviewer commented that the proposed rule's 
characterization of early and late winter habitats as being the most 
important habitats to caribou and the most limiting type of habitats on 
the landscape, is not supported by the science, as there is a high 
degree of overlap between the seasonal habitats. Given the high degree 
of overlap and importance of all seasonal habitats on the southern 
Selkirk Mountains population of woodland caribou recovery, it would be 
difficult to prioritize early and late winter habitats as having 
overriding importance to caribou or as being more limited on the 
landscape than are other seasonal habitats.
    Our Response: We acknowledge that, from a purely geographical 
standpoint, Kinley and Apps (2007) habitat modeling demonstrated a high 
degree of overlap between caribou seasonal habitats, and that all 
seasonal habitats are important to caribou. From a physiological and 
nutritional standpoint, early and late winter seasonal habitat foraging 
opportunities can be restricted by snow conditions depending on the 
variability of snowpack in any given year, and therefore are generally 
less available than summer and spring habitats and foraging 
opportunities. During summer and spring seasons, the physical ability 
of caribou to move is much less restricted, and there is a wider 
assortment and more availability of foraging plants available to 
caribou. During early and late winter, snow conditions and depths 
restrict caribou movement and foraging opportunities. In late winter, 
caribou must subsist almost entirely upon arboreal lichens, which are 
typically provided by mature subalpine fir stands with appropriate 
moisture conditions. Additionally, winter conditions (cold 
temperatures, deep snow) impose high energetic costs to caribou. Thus, 
from a physiological and nutritional standpoint, early and late winter 
habitats are very important to caribou and may be more limited to 
caribou. However, notwithstanding the above discussion, we understand 
the importance of high-quality spring and summer forage habitat at 
contributing to the ability of female caribou to calve and support 
their calves or to enter the breeding season in good physiological 
condition to survive the harsh winter conditions.
    (5) Comment: One peer reviewer commented that language in the 
proposed rule implying that the ecotone between the subalpine fir/
Engelmann spruce and cedar/hemlock zone occurs at around 4,000 ft 
(1,220 m) in elevation is inaccurate, and that the ecotone actually 
occurs approximately between the elevational band of 4,900 and 5,000 ft 
(1,490 and 1,520 m) (i.e., a 100-foot elevational band ecotone).
    Our Response: We agree, and we have provided the following 
clarification to that portion of the Primary Constituent Elements (PCE) 
in this final designation. According to Art Zack (USFS, pers. comm. 
2012): ``In the Selkirk ecosystem, the average boundary between cedar/
hemlock Vegetation Response Units (VRU) groups and subalpine fir VRU 
groups (or habitat type groups) is approximately 5,100 ft (1,550 m) 
elevation. However, this break will vary from place to place based on 
aspect, topography, landform, cold air drainage patterns, and local 
weather patterns. Based on a sample of 100 points on the break between 
these 2 groups, the standard deviation of this variation in the 
elevation break between these 2 categories was approximately 300 ft (90 
m) in elevation. In very limited circumstances, lower elevation 
drainage bottoms that are below a high ridge and that have restricted 
cold air drainage out of the valley bottom, may have subalpine fir 
habitat types over 1,000 ft (30 m) lower in elevation than the normal 
boundary. However, these are very restricted geographically, and are 
typically linear features confined to the very lower valley bottom. 
Where two different VRU's or habitat type groups meet, it is often not 
a distinct hard line between the two types, but rather an ecotone where 
the two types gradually intergrade. On average, the estimated ecotone 
width between the subalpine fir habitat types and the lower elevation 
habitat type may be 200 ft (61 m) in elevation. However that ecotone 
width varies depending upon local environmental characteristics.''
    (6) Comment: One peer reviewer noted that our definition of calving 
habitat in the proposed rule as comprising high-elevation, old-growth

[[Page 71047]]

forest ridgetops was too narrow and should also include high elevation 
alpine and non-forested areas in close proximity to forested mature and 
old-growth ridge tops as well as high elevation basins. The peer 
reviewer pointed to research demonstrating that caribou in the Selkirk 
Mountains use alpine scree sites as well as exposed cliff faces (Warren 
1990; Allen 1998), and noted that the broader definition of calving 
habitat is supported by the analysis conducted by Kinley and Apps 
(2007), who demonstrated that pregnant females showed a preference for 
alpine at all scales and that, at the finest scale, caribou did not 
avoid non-forested conditions.
    Our Response: We agree, and we have provided clarification to that 
portion of the PCE to identify that calving habitat includes more areas 
such as high-elevation basins in this final critical habitat 
designation.
    (7) Comment: Two peer reviewers commented that the proposed rule's 
characterization of caribou movements during the spring and summer was 
inaccurate. Language in the proposed rule stated that during the spring 
and summer caribou move to lower elevations to forage on grasses, 
flowering plants, horsetails, willow and dwarf birch leaves and tips, 
sedges, and lichens in subalpine meadows (Paquet 1997, pp. 13, 16). The 
peer reviewers noted that Paquet (1997) also stated, ``in summer, 
mountain caribou move back to mid- and upper elevation spruce/alpine 
fir forests.''
    Our Response: We agree, and we have provided language clarifying 
the discussion of summer and spring caribou movements in this final 
critical habitat designation.
    (8) Comment: One peer reviewer commented that caribou spring 
habitat findings reported in Kinley and Apps (2007) conflicts with the 
spring habitat discussion in the proposed rule, which is based on the 
1994 Recovery Plan (USFWS 1994), and Scott and Servheen's (1985) and 
Servheen and Lyon's (1989) research. The proposed rule stated that in 
spring caribou move to areas with green vegetation, and that these 
areas may overlap with early and late winter ranges at mid to lower 
elevations. The peer reviewer stated that Kinley and App's (2007) 
finding that caribou select for open-canopied stands of older subalpine 
fir/spruce habitats with high solar insolation at all scales with use 
of alpine and nonforested areas at broad scales only, conflicts with 
Scott and Servheen's (1985) research as it is referenced in the 
proposed rule.
    Our Response: We do not interpret Kinley and App's (2007) findings 
as being in disagreement with our statement in the proposed rule that 
caribou will seek out areas with green vegetation in spring. We stated 
previously that there is a high degree of overlap between seasonal 
habitats, and caribou will seek out green vegetation in the spring 
regardless of whether it occurs in sivilculturally treated (i.e., 
partial cut, clear-cut, seed/sapling) stands, natural openings within 
the forest canopy, or open-canopied stands.
    (9) Comment: One peer reviewer stated the proposed rule incorrectly 
cited Stevenson et al. (2001) and Kinley and Apps (2007), as referring 
to western hemlock/western red cedar forests providing summer range for 
the southern Selkirk Mountains population of woodland caribou. Another 
peer reviewer commented that the proposed rule's description of summer 
habitat should also identify the importance and use of permanent lakes, 
bogs, and fens by caribou for feeding and bedding sites in the summer 
and fall months, as documented through research conducted by Freddy 
1974; Johnson et al. 1977 and 1980; Warren 1990; and Allen 1998. One 
peer reviewer commented that the proposed rule's use of fall habitat to 
characterize seasonal habitat for caribou is inconsistent with the 
seasonal habitat definitions in Kinley and Apps (2007), which is 
considered to provide the best available scientific information on 
habitat and seasons of use by the southern Selkirk Mountains woodland 
caribou.
    Our Response: We have corrected and clarified this statement in 
this final critical habitat designation to reflect that subalpine fir 
and spruce forests provide summer range for the southern Selkirk 
Mountains population of woodland caribou. We have removed the reference 
to hemlock/western red cedar forests as providing summer habitat. The 
final designation reflects that subalpine fir and spruce fir forests 
provide summer range for this species. Relative to the description of 
summer and fall habitat, we have expanded this description in this 
final designation. Regarding reference to fall habitats, as noted 
previously in our response to Comment 2, we have revised the seasonal 
habitat definitions in this final designation to be consistent with 
Kinley and Apps (2007).
    (10) Comment: Two peer reviewers acknowledge that the proposed rule 
correctly identifies travel corridors as important habitat features 
supporting connectivity of seasonal caribou habitats. Both reviewers, 
however, suggested the travel corridor discussion in the proposed rule 
could be refined through more comprehensive consideration and 
interpretation of the available scientific information. One reviewer 
noted that Freddy (1974) identified specific routes in British Columbia 
that the southern Selkirk Mountains population of woodland caribou used 
repeatedly, which were natural passes along ridges, stream bottoms, 
forested areas, and areas connecting feeding and resting areas. The 
reviewer also noted that Freddy (1974) identified caribou movement from 
Kootenay Pass, British Columbia southward to Snowy Top Mountain, and 
from Monk Creek and Nun Creek, British Columbia to Continental Mountain 
via the Upper Priest River/American Falls drainage. Both reviewers 
noted that Wakkinen and Slone (2010) modeled travel corridors between 
areas of high- quality caribou habitat utilizing habitat quality maps 
developed by Kinley and Apps (2007).
    Our Response: The southern Selkirk Mountains population of woodland 
caribou is a transboundary species that travels between British 
Columbia and the United States. We acknowledge the importance of 
maintaining habitat connectivity between British Columbia and the 
United States, and although we do not designate critical habitat in 
foreign countries, we have included a travel corridor modeled by 
Wakkinen and Slone (2010) that facilitates caribou movement between 
patches of high-quality habitat in the Unites States including Little 
Snowy Top Mountain in Idaho, and the Salmo Priest Wilderness in 
Washington, and connects with the Stagleap Provincial Park in British 
Columbia.
    (11) Comment: One peer reviewer provided several scientific 
citations (Freddy 1974; Scott and Servheen 1985; Rominger and Oldemeyer 
1989; Warren et al. 1996; and Allen 1998), and suggested the available 
science on the southern Selkirk Mountains population of woodland 
caribou indicates the appropriate elevation cutoff to identify critical 
early-winter habitat for this population is 4,500 ft (1,372 m).
    Our Response: We agree that these citations provide additional 
scientific information in conjunction with other scientific literature, 
as well as peer review and substantive public comments, to determine 
the appropriate critical habitat elevation boundaries. However, there 
is a lot of uncertainty in making a designation of an ``absolute'' 
elevational point with which to designate critical habitat for a 
species such as the southern Selkirk Mountains population of caribou. 
Literature and information we reviewed, (such as Scott and Servheen 
1984, 1985; MCTAC 2002; McKinley and Apps 2007; Wakkinen

[[Page 71048]]

and Slone 2010), and additional peer reviewer comments, indicate that 
although caribou have been known to use elevations below 5,000 ft 
(1,520 m), only habitats at 5,000 ft (1,520 m) in elevation and above 
are essential to caribou. The final critical habitat designation 
includes areas at 5,000 ft (1,520 m) and higher in elevation, based on 
the best available scientific information (see ``Criteria Used To 
Identify Critical Habitat'').
    (12) Comment: One peer reviewer suggested the proposed rule lacked 
a complete discussion on potential sources of disturbance to the 
southern Selkirk Mountains population of woodland caribou. The reviewer 
suggested that other forms of human-caused disturbance during nonwinter 
months, in addition to snowmobiling impacts during winter, may be an 
important consideration in the conservation of caribou. Specifically, 
the reviewer stated ``* * * high elevation basins that include meadows 
and riparian areas are preferred habitat by woodland caribou. Such 
areas are often snow-free earlier in the season, provide good 
visibility, and include an abundance of arboreal lichen, grasses, and 
forbs. This makes them ideal habitat for caribou in general, and 
especially cows with calves. These areas also provide some of the most 
popular recreation destinations for backpacking, hiking and camping 
from July through October, with significantly increasing human use 
observed over the last two decades due to publicity from local 
advertisement and guide books.'' The reviewer also noted that the 
Service's 2001 Amended Biological Opinion for the continued 
implementation of the Idaho Panhandle National Forests (IPNF) Land and 
Resource Management Plan (LRMP) stated that increasing pressure during 
both winter and summer was decreasing habitat effectiveness for caribou 
(USFWS 2001, p. 17). The reviewer noted that several scientific 
documents support this presumption: Allen (1998) and Warren (1990) made 
field observations of transplanted caribou; Dumont (1993) concluded 
that interactions between caribou and hikers on preferred summer range 
likely increased caribou susceptibility to predation by pushing caribou 
into areas of reduced visibility; and Wittmer (2005), Compton et al. 
(1995), and Wakkinen and Johnson (2000) noted caribou are most 
susceptible to mortality from predation during the summer months.
    Our Response: We appreciate the additional information provided to 
us by the peer reviewer. Although the intent of the proposed rule, as 
well as the final rule, is not to describe the threats to the southern 
Selkirk Mountains population of woodland caribou in a comprehensive 
manner, we have expanded our discussion to include other recreational 
forms of potential displacement and disturbance of caribou in the 
Physical or Biological Feature discussion within ``Habitats That Are 
Protected From Disturbance or Are Representative of the Historical, 
Geographical, and Ecological Distributions of a Species'' portion of 
this final critical habitat designation.
    (13) Comment: One peer reviewer questioned the proposed rule's 
statement that the ongoing loss and fragmentation of contiguous old-
growth forests and forest habitat on National Forest System (NFS) lands 
within the caribou recovery zone is a result of a combination of timber 
harvest, road development, and wildfires. The reviewer stated that, due 
to a variety of policy and management decisions (e.g., grizzly bear 
management guidelines, woodland caribou management guidelines), timber 
harvest on NFS lands within the caribou recovery zone is virtually 
nonexistent, and many roads have been decommissioned. Therefore, 
fragmentation and loss of caribou habitat within the caribou recovery 
zone on NFS lands due to timber harvesting and road construction has 
been greatly reduced over historical conditions. The reviewer also 
commented that the proposed rule failed to adequately consider the role 
that natural wildfire plays within this ecosystem as an agent of change 
and resetting natural succession on the landscape, because language in 
the proposed rule advocates the development of management actions to 
minimize the potential for wildfire, and the implementation of rapid 
response measures when wildfire occurs. The reviewer noted that 
wildfire is a natural disturbance agent within this ecosystem, which 
facilitates the development and maintenance of habitat for other listed 
species (e.g., grizzly bear and white bark pine (Pinus albicaulis)), 
and that historical and recent fire suppression management actions and 
policies have adversely affected these species. Additionally, the 
reviewer commented that landscape analyses of changes in vegetation 
over time demonstrate an increase and/or maintenance in the amount and 
distribution of large-size classes of subalpine fir and moist, mixed-
conifer (cedar, hemlock, grand fir, and larch forest), indicating a 
pattern ecosystem recovery from the large 1880 to 1890 and 1910 to 1946 
wildfires that impacted caribou habitat.
    Our Response: We acknowledge that implementation of southern 
Selkirk Mountains population of woodland caribou management standards 
and guidelines, grizzly bear access management standards and 
guidelines, as well as other management decisions, such as the 2008 
Modified Idaho Roadless Rule and 2007 Northern Rockies Lynx Amendment, 
have reduced loss and fragmentation of old-growth forests on NFS lands 
within the area that was proposed for designation as critical habitat, 
over historical conditions. Implementation of these management 
decisions have and will continue to benefit caribou and caribou 
habitat. However, these management decisions do not prevent road 
construction or timber harvest (including old-growth forests) within 
the areas being designated as critical habitat under all circumstances. 
Thus, continued loss and fragmentation of caribou habitat (including 
old-growth forests) in an ecosystem that has been significantly altered 
from historical forest conditions continues to be a primary long-term 
threat to caribou. We agree that many acres of spruce/fir and cedar/
hemlock forests that were set back to an early successional stage by 
large, historical, stand-replacement fires are in various stages of 
developing tree species and stand structure characteristics that are 
representative of late-successional spruce/fir and cedar hemlock 
forests through natural successional processes. Nonetheless, we 
acknowledge that natural wildfire plays an important role in 
maintaining a mosaic of forest successional stages that provides 
habitat for a variety of species endemic to this ecosystem, and that 
fire suppression can alter vegetative mosaics and species composition. 
Therefore, in this critical habitat designation we have incorporated 
language addressing the importance of developing and implementing a 
wildland fire use plan to allow for the nonsuppression of naturally 
ignited fires when appropriate, and the implementation of a prescribed 
fire program.

Comments From States

    Section 4(i) of the Act states, ``the Secretary shall submit to the 
State agency a written justification for his failure to adopt 
regulations consistent with the agency's comments or petition.'' 
Comments received from the State of Idaho regarding the proposal to 
designate critical habitat for the southern Selkirk Mountains 
population of woodland caribou are addressed below.
    (14) Comment: The State of Idaho questioned the appropriateness of

[[Page 71049]]

designating critical habitat based on a lower elevation of 4,000 ft 
(1,219 m), stating that caribou seldom use areas as low as this 
elevation. The State of Idaho referred to studies that report mean 
elevation use for caribou in the south Selkirk Mountains to be 
approximately 5,500 ft (1,675 m).
    Our Response: We received numerous comments in addition to the 
State of Idaho regarding the science we used and synthesized to develop 
the proposed designation. We utilized all substantive input from these 
commenters in refining the designation (including the appropriate 
elevation boundary) of critical habitat for the southern Selkirk 
Mountains population of woodland caribou in this final rule. The 
elevations that were identified in the proposed rule have been revised 
in this final rule (see Primary Constituent Elements for the Southern 
Selkirk Mountains Population of Woodland Caribou, below). Literature 
and information we have since reviewed, such as Scott and Servheen 
1984, 1985; MCTAC 2002; McKinley and Apps 2007; and Wakkinen and Slone 
2010, as well as additional peer review comments, indicate that 
although caribou have been known to use elevations below 5,000 ft 
(1,520 m), only habitats at 5,000 ft (1,520 m) in elevation and above 
are essential to caribou. The final designation includes areas at 5,000 
ft (1,520 m) and higher in elevation, based on the best available 
scientific information.
    (15) Comment: The State of Idaho noted that forest practices such 
as partial cutting at higher elevations is common on Idaho managed 
lands, in reference to a statement in the proposed rule (76 FR 74025) 
that in the last decade, timber harvest has moved into high-elevation 
mature and old-growth habitat types due to more roads and more powerful 
machinery capable of traversing difficult terrains (Stevenson et al. 
2001, p. 10). The State commented that during the two previous decades, 
Idaho Department of Lands foresters have not noted trends toward more 
powerful machinery capable of traversing difficult terrain, and that 
State timber sale contracts generally impose size limits on equipment, 
thereby eliminating the most powerful tractors and skidders from 
operating on State timber sales. The State commented that a trend 
toward more mechanized felling and harvesting equipment is evident; 
however, ground capabilities have remained largely unchanged.
    Our Response: There are no State of Idaho lands being designated as 
critical habitat. We also acknowledge that, depending on the scale and 
timing of implementation, and equipment limitations, certain timber 
harvest treatments (partial cuts, thinning, etc.), may result in benign 
or perhaps beneficial effects to caribou habitat. However, as 
implemented historically, timber harvest practices (e.g., large clear 
cuts) were not compatible with maintaining caribou habitat. To the 
extent these same types of timber harvests would be implemented today, 
such treatments would similarly be incompatible with the habitat 
requirements of caribou.
    (16) Comment: The State and many other commenters have pointed out 
that recent annual surveys for the southern Selkirk Mountains 
population of woodland caribou have sighted zero to four caribou south 
of the United States-Canada border.
    Our Response: See our response to Comment 1, which discusses the 
issue of occupancy at the time of listing. As noted previously, the 
southern Selkirk Mountains population of woodland caribou is a 
transboundary population, which moves between B.C., Canada and the 
United States. Although most of this population is known to inhabit 
Canada, individual caribou freely move between Canada and the United 
States. We are designating approximately 30,010 ac (12,145 ha) in one 
unit containing Boundary County, Idaho, and Pend Oreille County, 
Washington, as critical habitat for the southern Selkirk Mountains 
population of woodland caribou. This designation represents a reduction 
of approximately 345,552 ac (139,840 ha) from the critical habitat 
originally proposed for designation (76 FR 74018, November 30, 2011); 
and reflects a 1,000-ft (about 300-m) change in elevation from 4,000 ft 
(1,220 m) in the proposed rule, to an elevation at or above 5,000 ft 
(1,520 m) in the final critical habitat designation. Factors that were 
considered and influenced this change from the proposed rule included: 
(1) A revised determination of the geographical area occupied by the 
southern Selkirk Mountains population of woodland caribou at the time 
of listing based on peer review comments, Scott and Servheen (1984, 
1985), as well as census monitoring documenting low numbers of 
individual caribou observed in the United States during those annual 
surveys, and (2) information and literature reporting the overall 
decline of the subspecies mountain caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou) 
across its range, and in particular the decline of woodland caribou 
populations in the southern extent of their range, including the 
southern Selkirk Mountains population of woodland caribou.
    (17) Comment: The State of Idaho indicated that the Service failed 
to take into account the best available science, and instead took a 
broad-brushed approach that if implemented as written, would carry 
significant economic consequences and ultimately hinder recovery 
efforts for the southern Selkirk Mountains population of woodland 
caribou in the region. The Kootenai Tribe of Idaho expressed a similar 
concern. The Idaho Department of Fish and Game (IDFG) did not support 
the proposed critical habitat designation being based on recovery zone 
boundaries, stating that much of the recovery zone would not be 
suitable caribou habitat for a century or more due to large stand-
replacing fires in the 1960s, and to some extent, timber harvest. The 
Idaho Department of Lands (IDL) recommended that the approach and the 
area proposed for critical habitat be reevaluated and reduced 
significantly using data relevant to Idaho and with input from IDL and 
other State agencies.
    Our Response: We have reviewed and evaluated all comments and 
information provided to the Service, including the State of Idaho's 
comments on the proposed rule and DEA. We have used that information to 
inform the final designation of critical habitat for the southern 
Selkirk Mountains population of woodland caribou. Although not all of 
the information received through public comment is specifically 
identified or reflected in our response to comments in this final rule, 
it is part of the administrative record for this rulemaking, and has 
been given appropriate weight in the final designation. In accordance 
with section 4(b)(2) of the Act, we used the best scientific data 
available to inform this critical habitat designation. We also complied 
with the criteria, established procedures, and guidance based on the 
Policy on Information Standards under the Endangered Species Act 
(published in the Federal Register on July 1, 1994 (59 FR 34271)), the 
Information Quality Act (section 515 of the Treasury and General 
Government Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2001 (Pub. L. 106-554; 
H.R. 5658)), and our associated Information Quality Guidelines.
    In making this final designation of critical habitat for the 
southern Selkirk Mountains population of woodland caribou, we reviewed 
information from many different sources, including articles in peer-
reviewed journals, scientific status surveys and studies, unpublished 
materials, and experts' opinions or personal knowledge, to inform the 
final critical habitat designation. We requested comments or 
information from other concerned governmental agencies, the scientific 
community, industry, and other

[[Page 71050]]

interested parties concerning the proposed rule. Also, in accordance 
with our peer review policy published on July 1, 1994 (59 FR 34270), we 
solicited expert opinions from knowledgeable individuals with 
scientific expertise that included familiarity with the species, the 
geographic region in which the species occurs, and conservation biology 
principles. All of the comments and information we received were fully 
considered in finalizing this critical habitat designation for the 
southern Selkirk Mountains population of woodland caribou. The Summary 
of Changes From Proposed Rule section identifies the revisions being 
made in this final designation, which include removing areas that were 
similar to the southern Selkirk Mountains woodland caribou recovery 
zone boundaries, after considering recommendations from the State of 
Idaho (including IDFG), the Kootenai Tribe of Idaho, and peer 
reviewers. All the supporting materials used for the final rule, 
including literature cited and comments from the public and peer 
reviewers, are available for public inspection at the Web site: http://www.regulations.gov.
    The State's comments with regard to economic impacts are addressed 
in the ``Comments Related to the Economic Analysis'' section below.
    (18) Comment: The State of Idaho disagrees that the entire area 
proposed for critical habitat was occupied at the time of listing, when 
census data collected by the IDFG at the time of listing indicates that 
the southern Selkirk Mountains woodland caribou were utilizing habitat 
found in close proximity to the U.S. and Canadian border.
    Our Response: Our final designation of critical habitat for the 
southern Selkirk Mountains population of woodland caribou reflects our 
analysis of the best available scientific information, and peer review 
comments provided to us during public comment. See also our response to 
Comment 1 and the Summary of Changes from Proposed Rule section for a 
more robust discussion of occupancy at the time of listing and changes 
between the proposed and final critical habitat rules.
    (19) Comment: The State of Idaho stated that critical habitat 
designation is not prudent at this time, because designation may lead 
to increased animosity towards the species and adequate protections are 
in place for the species and its habitat, including section 9 of the 
Act, which makes it unlawful for anyone to ``take'' southern Selkirk 
Mountains population of woodland caribou animals given its endangered 
status.
    Our Response: We recognize and appreciate the conservation efforts 
that have been implemented for the southern Selkirk Mountains 
population of woodland caribou, and look forward to continuing this 
important work with our partners. However, to the maximum extent 
prudent, the designation of critical habitat is required when a species 
is listed as endangered or threatened under section 4(a)(3)(A)(i) of 
the Act. Critical habitat designation is a regulatory action that 
defines specific areas that are essential to the conservation of the 
species in accordance with the statutory definition. We find the 
contiguous habitat proposed in this final rule provides the Primary 
Constituent Elements (PCEs) essential for the conservation of caribou 
(see Criteria Used to Identify Critical Habitat for more information), 
and therefore we conclude that designation is beneficial to this 
species. We have reviewed the best available information and have 
determined that the designation of critical habitat for the southern 
Selkirk Mountains population of woodland caribou would not be expected 
to increase the degree of threat by poaching, since increased education 
and awareness have made illegal poaching less of a threat than at the 
time of listing. Based on this information, we have determined that the 
designation of critical habitat is prudent. The fact that take 
prohibitions already exist under section 9 of the Act exist does not 
negate our requirement to designate critical habitat under section 
4(a)(3) of the Act. Please refer to the Prudency Determination section 
in the proposed rule (76 FR 7401; November 30, 2011), for further 
information on our critical habitat prudency determination.
    (20) Comment: The State of Idaho (IDFG) requested information on 
what additional, if any, management actions would be imposed in areas 
where critical habitat is designated, and how they would benefit the 
southern Selkirk Mountains population of woodland caribou.
    Our Response: We do not foresee or anticipate substantive changes 
in the existing management of the southern Selkirk Mountains population 
of woodland caribou or its habitat, because Federal agencies that 
manage land within the critical habitat area already take extensive 
measures to protect caribou in these areas. We anticipate that these 
actions are likely to continue, and will continue to be subject to 
section 7 consultation as appropriate, regardless of critical habitat 
designation. See our response to Comment 21 for an additional 
discussion on the relationship between critical habitat and land use.
    (21) Comment: The State of Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation 
(IDPR) is concerned that critical habitat management restrictions will 
have an effect on recreational activities, particularly snowmobiling, 
and motorized vehicle restrictions on roads and trails. The State 
commented that the Selkirk Mountains provide the only open terrain for 
snowmobiling in north Idaho. The State provided statistics showing a 
continual decline in motorized recreation opportunities in the Idaho 
Panhandle National Forest (IPNF), primarily restrictions associated 
with the grizzly bear recovery zone. Numerous public comments were 
received identifying similar concerns as the State.
    Our Response: We have no information that would indicate that a 
possible outcome of a section 7 consultation with a Federal agency from 
designation of critical habitat would result in closures of public 
access, or result in restrictions to currently permissible activities 
such as recreation on Federal, State, county, or private lands. This is 
because designation of critical habitat does not affect land ownership, 
or establish any closures, or restrictions on use of or access to the 
designated areas. Critical habitat designation also does not establish 
specific land management standards or prescriptions, although Federal 
agencies are prohibited from carrying out, funding, or authorizing 
actions that would destroy or adversely modify critical habitat. The 
Service acknowledges that some seasonal limitations on motorized 
vehicle access to public lands have occurred to minimize disturbance to 
caribou, including a 1994 closure for a large area of the Selkirk Crest 
on the IPNF. This closure was put in place to protect caribou from 
impacts related to snowmobiling, in coordination with the IDFG. 
Additionally, we understand that a court-ordered injunction in 2006, 
which was modified in 2007, has restricted much of the area used by 
caribou within the Selkirk Crest from snowmobiling, until the IPNF 
develops a winter recreation strategy addressing the effects of 
snowmobiling upon the species. However, the critical habitat 
designation for the southern Selkirk Mountains population of woodland 
caribou has no bearing on either the 1994 closure or the 2006/2007 
court-ordered injunction. The Service will work closely with the IPNF 
on the development of their winter recreation strategy, which will be 
subject to section 7 consultation with the Service.

[[Page 71051]]

Comments From Native American Tribes

    (22) Comment: The Kalispel Tribe of Indians stated that the 
recovery of the southern Selkirk Mountains population of woodland 
caribou is of critical importance to the tribe. The tribe views this 
population as nearly extinct, and supports the development and 
execution of an ambitious plan in order to further recovery, including 
implementation of all tools available under the Act.
    Our Response: We appreciate the significant interest and active 
involvement of the Kalispel Tribe of Indians in the recovery of the 
southern Selkirk Mountains population of woodland caribou. The 
designation of critical habitat is one tool the Service uses to recover 
species, and we look forward to continued work with the tribe toward 
that objective.
    (23) Comment: The Kalispel Tribe of Indians stated that through 
critical habitat designation or an update of the recovery plan, the 
following issues must be addressed: (1) A full habitat analysis of the 
375,562-acre recovery area must be performed in order to develop an 
adequate management plan; (2) based on current and predicted use areas, 
an active predator control plan must be implemented; and (3) a winter 
use plan for the recovery area must be developed, adopted, and strictly 
enforced. The tribe also stated that while they understand the 
importance of both balancing predator-prey relationships and the desire 
for accessing remote areas for recreation, neither disturbance is 
acceptable until caribou populations rebound. They stated that once the 
above three conditions are met, the herd should be augmented with new 
animals from Canada to bolster the vitality of the existing herd.
    Our Response: We appreciate the tribe's comments on the proposed 
rule for the designation of critical habitat for the southern Selkirk 
Mountains population of woodland caribou. We have reevaluated the best 
available data and the information provided in the 1994 Recovery Plan 
for the Selkirk Mountain Woodland Caribou, in light of the results of 
population surveys that have been conducted since the time of listing 
under the Act. As a result, we are designating 30,011 ac (12,145 ha) at 
an elevation of 5,000 ft (1,520 m) and above, on Federal lands in 
Boundary County, Idaho, and Pend Oreille County, Washington, as 
critical habitat for the southern Selkirk Mountains population of 
woodland caribou in the United States. This area represents our best 
assessment of the area occupied by the species at the time of listing 
in 1983, and that provides the PBFs essential to the conservation of 
the species in the United States. This area, when combined with areas 
secured and protected for the conservation of the species in British 
Columbia, (see ``Summary of Changes from Proposed Rule'') meets the 
recovery area requirements recommended in the 1994 recovery plan. The 
Service supports and agrees that effectively addressing the threats to 
the species, including predation and disturbance from recreational 
activities, will be essential to recover this species.
    (24) Comment: In a letter to the Service on January 10, 2012, the 
Kootenai Tribe of Idaho stated that the proposed critical habitat area 
is in Kootenai Aboriginal Territory and holds special significance to 
the tribe. The Kootenai Tribe stated that they are pleased to be able 
to work with the Service on a government-to-government level in order 
to ensure protection and enhancement of the tribe's treaty resources, 
and look forward to consultation during and after the public comment 
period. The tribe urged the Service to consider community concerns 
about the proposed critical habitat designation and to extend the 
public comment period.
    Our Response: We appreciate knowing the proposed critical habitat 
area holds special significance to the Kootenai Tribe of Idaho. We 
coordinated with the Kootenai Tribe throughout the critical habitat 
designation process, and look forward to continuing this cooperative 
relationship beyond the confines of this rulemaking. As noted earlier, 
the Service extended the public comment on several occasions to ensure 
our determination was based on the best available information and had 
the benefit of input from stakeholders on all sides of the issue. We 
also held numerous public meetings and conducted two public hearings to 
increase communication and address concerns.
    (25) Comment: In a letter to the Service on May 15, 2012, the 
Kootenai Tribe of Idaho stated that the proposed critical habitat rule 
``ignores the Federal government's commitments to consult meaningfully 
with the federally recognized tribes by attempting to limit such 
consultation to issues affecting Tribal lands.'' The tribe stated that 
the Service failed to acknowledge its responsibilities to protect and 
enhance the Kootenai Tribe's Treaty-reserved rights to fish at usual 
and accustomed areas, and hunt and gather on open and unclaimed lands, 
and protect cultural resources and access to traditional cultural 
properties and spiritual sites.
    Our Response: The Service values its government-to-government 
relationship with the Kootenai Tribe of Idaho, and greatly appreciated 
the formal and informal exchange of information on the proposed 
critical habitat designation, on January 9, 2012, in Bonners Ferry, 
Idaho, and during a conference call on May 24, 2012, to clarify the 
concerns expressed in the tribe's letter. In accordance with the 
President's memorandum of April 29, 1994 (Government-to-Government 
Relations with Native American Tribal Governments; 59 FR 22951), 
Executive Order 13175 (Consultation and Coordination With Indian Tribal 
Governments), and the Department of the Interior's manual at 512 DM 2, 
we readily acknowledge our responsibility to communicate meaningfully 
with recognized Federal tribes on a government-to-government basis. 
This government-to-government relationship, as outlined in Secretarial 
Order 3206, dated June 5, 1997, establishes several important 
principles, including: (1) Working directly with tribes to promote 
healthy ecosystems; (2) recognizing that Indian lands are not subject 
to the same control as Federal public lands; (3) assisting tribes in 
developing and expanding tribal programs to promote healthy ecosystems; 
(4) supporting tribal measures that preclude the need for conservation 
restrictions; (5) being sensitive to Indian culture, religion, and 
spirituality; (6) exchanging information regarding tribal trust 
resources; and (7) striving to protect sensitive tribal information 
from disclosure.
    (26) Comment: The Kootenai Tribe of Idaho questioned the prudency 
determination made by the Service because they believe the Service has 
not done the following: (1) Increased education and awareness regarding 
caribou among communities in north Idaho; (2) provided evidence that 
the threat of poaching may be reduced; or (3) addressed the second 
prudency criteria in order to demonstrate a benefit in designating 
critical habitat for the southern Selkirk Mountains population of 
woodland caribou. The Service also received questions regarding the 
prudency of the proposed critical habitat designation from the State of 
Idaho, private industry, and public commenters.
    Our Response: See also our response to the State of Idaho in 
Comments 1 and 19. There is no requirement under the Act to demonstrate 
an increase in public education and awareness with respect to a 
prudency determination. However, we welcome all opportunities to 
further

[[Page 71052]]

public education and awareness, since engaging local communities in a 
collaborative way is critical to recovering imperiled species. The 5-
year status review for the southern Selkirk Mountains population of 
woodland caribou states that, historically, over-hunting contributed to 
the decline of some caribou populations. However, there is no legal 
hunting season on the southern Selkirk Mountains population of woodland 
caribou in British Columbia or the United States, although poaching by 
``mistaken identity'' shootings may occur. Based on the best available 
information, we do not expect poaching to significantly affect the 
southern Selkirk Mountains population of woodland caribou (USFWS 2008a, 
p 23).
    (27) Comment: The Kootenai Tribe of Idaho commented that the 
recovery planning effort must be restarted and include all appropriate 
Tribal representatives, including Kootenai Tribe of Idaho 
representatives. In so doing, the sovereign governments responsible for 
caribou recovery can better understand the limiting factors impeding 
woodland caribou recovery and develop approaches for addressing those 
limiting factors in a holistic and ecosystem-based manner. They stated 
that the recovery effort must be transparent, and that communities 
affected, Kootenai and non-Kootenai, are entitled to know why the 
government is taking these actions, how such actions lead to achievable 
goals, and what it means for their livelihoods and ways of life. 
Numerous commenters stated that efforts to recover caribou have not 
been successful and questioned the need to continue recovery efforts. 
Others recommended that the Service consider revising the recovery 
plan, including the need to create additional populations to achieve 
recovery of the species.
    Our Response: Although the status of the southern Selkirk Mountains 
population of woodland caribou recovery plan is beyond the scope of 
this rule, section 4(f)(4) of the Act states that the Secretary shall, 
prior to final approval of a new or revised recovery plan, provide 
public notice and an opportunity for public review and comment on such 
plan, and shall consider all information presented during the public 
comment period. Any successful recovery planning effort will require 
input and participation by appropriate Federal, State, Tribal, local, 
and private stakeholders, to identify measures needed to conserve any 
species listed under the Act.
    (28) Comment: The Kootenai Tribe of Idaho recommended that: (1) The 
analysis of the IPNF suitable habitat should focus on critical caribou 
habitat essential to the conservation of the species; (2) reducing 
constraints on forest management and over-the-snow recreation should be 
factors considered; and (3) reduced constraints on forest management 
would assist not only in increasing community support for caribou 
recovery, but also allow for forest management to improve caribou 
habitat in areas not currently occupied by caribou, but which may 
support caribou populations in the future.
    Our Response: We appreciate the Kootenai Tribe of Idaho's concerns 
and desire to achieve conservation and recovery of the southern Selkirk 
Mountains population of woodland caribou. With regard to recommendation 
(1), the proposed critical habitat rule was focused on caribou habitat 
essential to the conservation of the species, as required under section 
3(5)(A) of the Act. With regard to recommendation (2), the designation 
of critical habitat does not establish specific land management 
standards or prescriptions, and does not automatically close areas to 
public access or currently permissible activities, such as recreation, 
or restrict all uses of land. However, as a result of critical habitat 
designation, Federal agencies are required under section 7(a)(2) of the 
Act to consult with the Service on Federal actions that may affect 
critical habitat. Federal agencies are prohibited from carrying out, 
funding, or authorizing actions that would destroy or adversely modify 
critical habitat. During the consultation process, if we conclude that 
a proposed action is likely to result in the destruction or adverse 
modification of critical habitat, we are required to provide the 
Federal agency with a biological opinion describing reasonable and 
prudent alternatives to the action that would avoid the destruction or 
adverse modification of critical habitat. Such alternatives must be 
economically, as well as technologically, feasible (50 CFR 402.02).
    However, regardless of critical habitat designation, Federal 
agencies already consult with the Service under section 7 of the Act 
because the southern Selkirk Mountains population of woodland caribou 
is a listed species under the Act. Federal agencies, such as the USFS, 
will continue to consult with us regardless of the designation of 
critical habitat, in order to ensure that their actions do not 
jeopardize the continued existence of caribou. In addition, Federal 
agencies that manage land within the proposed critical habitat already 
have ongoing management activities that consider the caribou, and 
various conservation efforts are in place to benefit the caribou. These 
plans have existed and will exist in the future with or without the 
designation of critical habitat, and the Service does not anticipate 
any additional ``constraints'' on management activities within National 
Forest lands. The Service acknowledges that some seasonal limitations 
on motorized vehicle access to public lands have occurred to minimize 
disturbance to caribou, including a 1994 closure for a large area of 
the Selkirk Crest in the IPNF. However, in the Service's analysis of 
the proposal, we stated that we do not foresee or anticipate that areas 
not currently closed due to the listing of caribou will be closed with 
the designation of critical habitat. This is because Federal agencies 
that manage land within the proposed critical habitat area already take 
extensive measures to protect the caribou within, and these actions 
have and will continue to be carried out and consulted on regardless of 
critical habitat designation. With regard to concern (3), the Service 
will work with Federal agencies through the section 7 consultation 
process, as well as other Federal, State, tribal, and private partners 
through the recovery planning process, to incorporate the best 
available science when developing appropriate management and recovery 
actions for caribou.

Comments From Environment Canada

    (29) Comment: Environment Canada's Canadian Wildlife Service 
provided comments in support of the proposed critical habitat 
designation and advised us that they recently initiated the preparation 
of a draft recovery strategy for Woodland Caribou, Southern Mountain 
population. The draft recovery strategy covers many populations, 
including the transboundary southern Selkirk Mountains population of 
woodland caribou. The Canadian Wildlife Service stated that they 
recognize the detailed implementation planning and actions initiated by 
government agencies including the Service and that this information, 
along with additional information, will be considered in preparation of 
the Canadian recovery strategy. The Canadian Wildlife Service welcomes 
any contribution to the recovery strategy that the Service wishes to 
make.
    Our Response: We appreciate the support provided by the Canadian 
Wildlife Service during this critical habitat designation process and 
during past caribou transplant and augmentation efforts. We also 
acknowledge the recent and ongoing

[[Page 71053]]

conservation actions undertaken by Canada, such as protecting Crown 
Lands from timber harvest within the Selkirk Mountains. We look forward 
to participating in the development of the draft recovery strategy as 
it pertains to the southern Selkirk Mountains population of woodland 
caribou.

Public Comments

    (30) Comment: Several commenters requested that the Service hold 
public meetings within the communities affected by the proposed 
critical habitat designation and notify the media of these meetings. 
One commenter suggested that a public hearing be held in Bonners Ferry, 
ID. One organization suggested the Service should have held public 
meetings in additional locations close to the Selkirk Mountains, such 
as Sandpoint, ID, and Spokane, WA. One commenter requested that we 
engage with the Kootenai Tribe of Idaho and any other tribal/indigenous 
groups in the area affected by the proposed critical habitat 
designation.
    Our Response: During the rulemaking process, the Service conducted 
numerous outreach efforts to be responsive to public requests for 
additional information, including the following:
     January 9, 2012: We met with the Kootenai Tribe of Idaho.
     May 24, 2012: We held a follow-up conference call with 
members of the tribe to discuss the proposed critical habitat rule.
     January 9, 2012: We presented information on the proposed 
critical habitat designation at a meeting of the Kootenai Valley 
Resource Initiative (KVRI) in Bonners Ferry, Boundary County, Idaho.
     January 24, 2012; February 28, 2012; March 26, 2012; June 
24, 2012: We participated in public information and coordination 
meetings in Bonner County, Idaho, at the request of Bonner County 
Commissioners.
     April 19, 2012: We participated in a public information 
and coordination meeting in Boundary County, Idaho, at the request of 
Boundary County Commissioners.
     April 28, 2012: We held an informational session (an open 
house format for personal dialogue and question-and-answer period about 
the proposed rule) and a public hearing on April 28, 2012, in Bonners 
Ferry, Idaho, at the request of the Governor of Idaho and the 
Commissioners of Boundary County, Idaho. The public informational 
session and public hearing were announced in a press release and in the 
notice of availability published in the Federal Register on March 21, 
2012 (77 FR 16512).
     June 16, 2012: We held an informational session and a 
public hearing in Coolin, Idaho, which was announced in a press release 
and in the notice of availability published in the Federal Register on 
May 31, 2012 (77 FR 32075).
    The Service also notified the public about opportunities for input 
on the proposed rule through press releases and legal announcements in 
local newspapers. Information specific to informational sessions and 
public hearings in Boundary and Bonner Counties was published in the 
Federal Register and the following newspapers within 10 days of the 
meetings and public hearings: Newport Miner (WA); Spokesman Review 
(WA); Coeur d'Alene Press (ID); Idaho Statesman (ID); Lewiston Morning 
Tribune (ID); Bonner County Daily Bee (ID); Bonners Ferry Herald (ID); 
and Priest River Times (ID). Comment periods, instructions for comment 
submission, and proposed rule information occurred through press 
release notifications that reached Idaho and Washington media, 
citizens, elected officials, tribes, nongovernmental organizations, 
special interest groups, industry and business, academic institutions, 
Federal/State/local agencies and other interested parties. All formal 
public comment was recorded by a court reporter and is incorporated 
into the public record.
    (31) Comment: Over the course of the rulemaking process and the 
three public comment periods, one commenter wrote to request that the 
public comment period be extended for an additional 6 months. One 
commenter requested an extension of the public comment period in order 
to allow time for the Service to educate the community on the proposed 
critical habitat rule and to allow Federal and State agencies and 
tribes time to review the proposed critical habitat rule.
    Our Response: We requested written comments from the public on the 
proposed designation of critical habitat for the southern Selkirk 
Mountains population of woodland caribou during three comment periods, 
which were open for a total of 150 days. The first 60-day comment 
period, associated with the publication of the proposed critical 
habitat rule (76 FR 74018), opened on November 30, 2011, and closed on 
January 30, 2012. We reopened the comment period for 60 days on March 
12, 2012 (77 FR 16512). During the second comment period, we held a 
public hearing in Bonners Ferry, Idaho, on April 28, 2012.
    We also requested comments on the proposed critical habitat 
designation and associated DEA during a third comment period that 
opened May 31, 2012, and closed on July 2, 2012 (77 FR 32075). During 
this comment period, we also held a public hearing on June 16, 2012, in 
Coolin, Idaho. We believe we have provided adequate time for the public 
to comment on the proposed rule and associated DEA, to ensure our final 
determination is based on the best available information.
    (32) Comment: Several commenters suggested that the public, State 
governments, and local communities be consulted early in the rulemaking 
process, as they are key stakeholders in the process. One commenter 
noted that it is important for proposed critical habitat rules to have 
public support in order to build trust between the Federal Government 
and the public. Another commenter expressed concern that the Service 
had not coordinated with, nor shared the proposed critical habitat rule 
with, the State of Idaho and Department of Fish and Game prior to 
publication in the Federal Register.
    Our Response: The Service is committed to meaningful coordination 
with all of our partners when it comes to our activities. We also take 
seriously our responsibility to coordinate with other local, State, and 
tribal governments and the general public. In regard to this 
commitment, the Service follows specific policies and procedures to 
inform the public and all governmental entities when we are considering 
actions such as listing endangered or threatened species, designating 
critical habitat, or developing recovery plans. These procedures 
frequently include opportunities for open meetings or hearings beyond 
the general notices and letters we send out. While developing the 
proposed rule, the Service reached out to several Federal and State 
agency experts and scientists to obtain the most current and best 
available information for inclusion in the proposed rule. Where 
agencies were able to respond to these efforts in a timely manner, the 
information was evaluated, and relevant information was included in the 
proposed rule.
    (33) Comment: Commenters stated that the southern Selkirk Mountains 
population of woodland caribou represents a very small percentage of 
the overall North American caribou population, that caribou are at home 
on open tundra in Canada, Alaska, and Greenland (not in Idaho), and 
questioned the need for the proposed critical habitat in Idaho. 
Commenters also stated that tens of thousands of

[[Page 71054]]

caribou roam Canada and Alaska, which represent the caribou's preferred 
habitat. One commenter requested clarification regarding the difference 
between the southern Selkirk Mountains population of woodland caribou 
and the caribou of the Brooks Range in Alaska.
    Our Response: All caribou in the world are a single species 
(Rangifer tarandus); however, there are seven subspecies of caribou. 
The subspecies found in Alaska, including within the Brooks Mountain 
range, is the barren-ground subspecies (Rangifer tarandus granti), 
which resides in open tundra and mountainous areas. The southern 
Selkirk Mountains population of woodland caribou belongs to the 
subspecies Rangifer tarandus caribou. For additional information on 
woodland caribou, please see the Background section of the 2008 5-Year 
Review, and for additional information on the southern Selkirk 
Mountains population of woodland caribou, please see the Background 
section of the proposed rule published November 30, 2011 (76 FR 74018). 
Both of these references are available on http://www.regulations.gov, 
or by request from the Idaho Fish and Wildlife Office (see ADDRESSES).
    (34) Comment: Bonner County, Idaho, questioned the need for 
designating critical habitat for the southern Selkirk Mountains 
population of woodland caribou, which they believe is ``a direct result 
of the 1984 listing rule which has been shown to be incorrect.'' The 
County recommended that if the Service does move forward with a 
critical habitat rule, the designation should be reevaluated and 
reduced significantly, using data relevant to north Idaho, in 
consultation and coordination with the IDL, IDFG, and Bonner County 
Commissioners.
    Our Response: The meaning behind the County's reference to the 1984 
listing rule being incorrect is not entirely clear; however, the 
designation of critical habitat is required when a species is listed as 
endangered or threatened under section 4(a)(3)(A)(i) of the Act, to the 
maximum extent it is prudent and determinable. See our response to 
comment 19 for additional information regarding our prudency 
determination. This final critical habitat designation fully considers 
all comments received, which includes scientific information from peer 
reviewers and the IDFG. Revisions from the proposed critical habitat 
designation are described in the Summary of Changes from Proposed Rule 
section.
    (35) Comment: The Boundary County Commissioners commented that the 
proposed critical habitat did not contain the PBFs essential to the 
conservation of the southern Selkirk Mountains population of woodland 
caribou. The Commissioners also commented that the Service should focus 
its critical habitat designation on the area of Little Snowy Top 
Mountain, where all sightings of nontransplanted southern Selkirk 
Mountains woodland caribou have occurred.
    Our Response: The Service based our final designation of critical 
habitat for the southern Selkirk Mountains population of woodland 
caribou on the best available scientific information, including 
comments and information received from peer reviewers, Federal and 
State agencies, the Kootenai Tribe of Idaho, and public comments 
received during the three public comment periods. Based on this 
information, we are designating 30,010 ac (12,145 ha) of critical 
habitat for the southern Selkirk Mountains population of woodland 
caribou in the United States that was known to be occupied at the time 
of listing in 1983 and 1984. All of the areas designated in this final 
rule contain the PBFs and habitat characteristics essential to conserve 
the species, for the reasons explained in the ``Physical or Biological 
Features'' section below.
    (36) Comment: Bonner County, Idaho stated that ``the proposed 
listing also raises significant concerns about possible Federal nexus 
situations whereby the County will likely be prohibited from winter 
snowmobile trail grooming. At present, Bonner County must obtain 
permission from both the USFS and IDL. Federal nexus situations may 
also include future requirements to obtain permits for other as yet 
unknown nexus situations created by further Federal mandates.'' The 
County also believes ``the proposed listing would significantly impact 
Bonner County's ability to manage over 400 miles of groomed snowmobile 
trails used by visitors and residents alike.''
    Our Response: Although the County's comment appears to be focused 
on the ``proposed listing,'' we are assuming they were referring to the 
proposed critical habitat designation instead. However, there are no 
Bonner County lands being designated as critical habitat for the 
southern Selkirk Mountains population of woodland caribou in this final 
rule.
    (37) Comment: We received extensive public comments suggesting that 
designation of critical habitat will result in either a complete 
closure of the designated area or extensive restrictions to human 
access within the designated area for recreational purposes (including, 
but not limited to, snowmobiling, hiking, picnicking, and camping). We 
received many comment letters both in support of and in opposition to 
the critical habitat designation based on the assumption that this 
designation will require land closures and access restrictions. Many 
supporters noted that there are many opportunities to recreate outside 
of southern Selkirk Mountains population of woodland caribou habitat, 
with particular emphasis on snowmobiles. Of the commenters in 
opposition, some expressed concern that restrictions and closures would 
have a significant impact on the economy. Other commenters expressed 
opposition to the proposal because they believe there are few, if any, 
caribou in the United States, and implementing closures or restrictions 
on uses is not justified. Finally, a few commenters stated that 
snowmobiles do not present a real threat to caribou, and therefore 
areas proposed for designation of critical habitat should not be 
closed, or have restrictions placed on access.
    Our Response: We have no information that would indicate this 
designation of critical habitat will result in the closure of areas to 
public access or result in restrictions to currently permissible 
activities such as recreation on Federal, State, county, or private 
lands, as is more fully discussed in our response to comment 21. There 
is also no information that would indicate the designation would result 
in significant economic impacts, as is discussed in the Comments 
Related to Economics and the Draft Economic Analysis section.
    (38) Comment: Several commenters objected to the southern Selkirk 
Mountains population of woodland caribou herd being identified as 
approximately 36 animals in the proposed rule, stating that few animals 
have been documented in the United States in recent years. One 
commenter expressed confusion between the population number provided by 
the Service (36 animals), and population numbers provided in various 
media outlets (40 to 60 animals). Several commenters stated they spent 
considerable time in the areas proposed as critical habitat and have 
never seen a caribou. One commenter stated that since the Service did 
not present recent population numbers of the southern Selkirk Mountains 
population of woodland caribou in the United States in the proposed 
critical habitat rule, there is no scientific support for a designation 
of critical habitat.
    Our Response: The southern Selkirk Mountains population of woodland 
caribou is a transboundary population, which moves between British 
Columbia, Canada and the United States. Although most of this 
population is known to

[[Page 71055]]

inhabit Canada, individual caribou freely move between Canada and the 
United States. For example, in the last 3 years, the winter census 
results for southern Selkirk Mountains population of woodland caribou 
have gone from 43 total caribou with 2 individuals observed in the 
United States in 2010, to 36 total caribou with none observed in the 
United States in 2011. Twenty seven caribou were counted in the 2012 
winter survey, with 4 of those individuals observed in the United 
States (Woodland Caribou Census Report 2012, p. 5).
    (39) Comment: Some commenters opposed critical habitat designation 
for the southern Selkirk Mountains population of woodland caribou, as 
they believe the population is not viable. Other commenters suggested 
that the viability of this population is fragile and that, as a result, 
the entire proposed area should be designated as critical habitat.
    Our Response: The purpose of the Act, in part, is to provide a 
means to conserve listed species and the ecosystems upon which they 
depend. Once a species is listed under the Act, we are required to 
implement conservation actions toward its recovery. The designation of 
critical habitat is a statutory conservation requirement under the Act, 
unless designation would not be beneficial to the species. For the 
southern Selkirk Mountains population of woodland caribou, we have 
determined that the designation of critical habitat would be 
beneficial, as has been previously discussed. We have determined that 
much of the area proposed as critical habitat is not occupied or 
essential to the conservation of the southern Selkirk Mountains 
population of woodland caribou. This is more fully discussed in the 
Summary of Changes From Proposed Rule section.
    (40) Comment: Several commenters opposed critical habitat 
designation for the southern Selkirk Mountains population of caribou, 
as the individuals of this herd in the United States are transplanted 
individuals, and not native U.S. caribou. Additional comments stated 
that the transplanted animals did not want to remain in the United 
States and migrated back to Canada. One commenter indicated the Service 
should not use telemetry data from transplanted caribou in determining 
the caribou recovery areas, as these animals did not represent true 
members of the southern Selkirk Mountains population of woodland 
caribou.
    Our Response: Under section 3(5)(A) of the Act, a critical habitat 
designation may include the geographical areas occupied by the species 
at the time of listing on which are found the physical and biological 
features essential to the conservation of the species and which may 
require special management considerations or protection, as well as 
areas outside the geographical area occupied by the species at the time 
of listing that are determined to be essential for the conservation of 
the species. This final critical habitat designation: (1) Is based on 
the best available scientific information (see our response to Comment 
1); (2) is within the geographical area occupied by the southern 
Selkirk Mountains population of woodland caribou at the time of 
listing; (3) identifies those areas that are essential to the 
conservation of the species; and (4) will advance important 
conservation efforts with our partners toward recovering this species.
    (41) Comment: One commenter recommended that the Service not 
exclude any areas from critical habitat in the final rule. One 
organization noted that it accepted the Service's decision not to 
include the Schweitzer Mountain Resort along the southern boundary on 
social grounds, given the difficulty of managing there.
    Our Response: Section 4(b)(2) of the Act states that the Secretary 
shall designate and make revisions to critical habitat on the basis of 
the best available scientific data after taking into consideration the 
economic impact, national security impact, and any other relevant 
impact of specifying any particular area as critical habitat. The 
Secretary may exclude an area from critical habitat if he determines 
that the benefits of such exclusion outweigh the benefits of specifying 
such area as part of the critical habitat, unless he determines, based 
on the best scientific data available, that the failure to designate 
such area as critical habitat will result in the extinction of the 
species. The Service did not propose to exclude any areas in the 
proposed rule, and the Secretary is not exercising his discretion to 
exclude any areas from critical habitat in the final rule. The 
Schweitzer Mountain Resort was not proposed for designation as critical 
habitat (which is not the same as excluding from designation under 
section 4(b)(2) provisions of the Act), because it is a highly 
developed recreational destination and does not contain any of the 
identified PBFs essential to supporting the conservation of this 
species.
    (42) Comment: One commenter urged the Service to exclude any areas 
from critical habitat below 4,000 ft (1,219 m) in elevation due to 
economic impacts. The commenter also stated, ``an exclusion of this 
nature would provide clear guidance to Federal agencies when road 
access agreements are being considered below 4,000 ft (1,219 m) in 
elevation and when accessing private lands that do not contain critical 
habitat at higher elevations.''
    Our Response: No areas were excluded from critical habitat based on 
economic impacts; however, the final designation includes areas at 
5,000 ft (1,520 m) and higher in elevation. The 5,000 ft (1,520 m) 
elevation will be the elevation baseline considered by the Federal 
agencies for purposes of section 7 consultation when evaluating road 
access agreements. Maps identifying the specific location of these 
areas are available on the Idaho Fish and Wildlife Service Web page, 
http://www.fws.gov/idaho, or from that office (see ADDRESSES).
    (43) Comment: Many comments suggested that the Service should 
increase the proposed designated critical habitat to include: (1) The 
entire recovery area identified in the 1994 Recovery Plan (443,000 ac) 
(179,276 ha); (2) areas currently unoccupied, as they may become more 
important as the southern Selkirk Mountains population of woodland 
caribou recovers; (3) large areas required to maintain connectivity 
between essential habitats, especially in light of the impacts of 
climate change; or (4) areas of historical occupation, such as 
additional areas in Washington and Idaho, as well as in Montana. Some 
commenters indicated concern that the critical habitat area as proposed 
would not support a fully recovered population of southern Selkirk 
Mountains woodland caribou. One commenter urged the Service to consider 
including the Priority Areas 1, 2, and 3 as outlined in Kinley and Apps 
(2007) in the critical habitat designation.
    Our Response: See Section ``Criteria Used To Identify Critical 
Habitat'' below for a discussion of our rationale for constructing the 
critical habitat unit, including the biological needs of the species, 
seasonal habitat requirements, and the relationship of the essential 
PBFs and primary constituent elements to the conservation needs of the 
southern Selkirk Mountains population of woodland caribou. The Service 
used the best available scientific information on the southern Selkirk 
Mountains population of woodland caribou seasonal use of habitat and 
movement between habitats to quantify the areas we are designating as 
critical habitat, including the Priority 1, 2, and 3 areas identified 
in the Kinley and Apps (2007) model. If additional data become 
available in the future, the Secretary can revise the designation under 
the

[[Page 71056]]

authority of section 4(a)(3)(A)(ii) of the Act, as appropriate.
    (44) Comment: Many comments suggested that the proposed critical 
habitat designation was too large, and that either specific areas 
should be removed from the final designation, or the Service should not 
designate any critical habitat for the southern Selkirk Mountains 
population of woodland caribou because: (1) Fires have eliminated old-
growth forests in the historical range of the caribou in the United 
States, and no suitable habitat exists; (2) the proposed critical 
habitat areas do not contain the physical or biological features 
necessary for the survival of the southern Selkirk Mountains population 
of woodland caribou; or (3) recent studies indicate the majority of the 
range and movements of the southern Selkirk Mountains population of 
woodland caribou occurs at or above 5,500 ft (1,676 m).
    Our Response: We have used the best scientific data available to 
inform our final determination of critical habitat for the southern 
Selkirk Mountains population of woodland caribou, as is required under 
section 4(b)(2) of the Act. All areas designated as critical habitat 
contain one or more of the PCEs essential to the conservation of the 
species. See our response to comment 43 for additional information.
    (45) Comment: Several commenters indicated that the United States 
comprises only the southernmost portion of the range of the southern 
Selkirk Mountains population of woodland caribou, and this habitat is 
unsuitable to support the caribou population. Therefore, they believe 
critical habitat should not be designated in the United States. One 
commenter stated that protecting species that have their full range 
within the United States should be the focus of the Service's efforts.
    Our Response: The critical habitat being designated in this final 
rule represents the geographical areas essential to the conservation of 
the southern Selkirk Mountains population of woodland caribou, within 
the area known to be occupied at the time of listing. The biological 
basis for this determination is more fully explained in the Critical 
Habitat section, below.
    (46) Comment: One commenter indicated that the Service cannot rely 
on a map showing individual caribou observations, as a map showing 
observed locations is not relevant when individual animal tracking is 
not utilized (one animal can create many or most of the location marks 
over a period of many years). Another commenter stated that data points 
used to identify caribou locations should only be from the native 
southern Selkirk Mountains population of woodland caribou, not 
transplanted animals.
    Our Response: We used the best available information, including 
reports, peer-reviewed literature, and other data, to make our final 
determination on the area to be designated for critical habitat for the 
southern Selkirk Mountains population of woodland caribou. We have 
provided a thorough description of our analysis in the Criteria Used to 
Identify Critical Habitat section in the final rule. Telemetry data 
from transplanted animals was not used as a basis for establishing the 
geographical area occupied at the time of listing in the final rule. 
See our response to Comment 1 for additional information regarding 
occupancy data used to establish the geographic area occupied by the 
southern Selkirk Mountains population of woodland caribou at the time 
of listing.
    (47) Comment: Several commenters noted that the draft land 
management plan for the IPNF proposes area designations, such as 
wilderness, primitive, and backcountry, which have allowable activities 
within these designations that are likely not compatible with caribou 
recovery and caribou critical habitat goals. For example, backcountry 
and primitive designations may allow motorized winter recreation. The 
potential increase in wilderness designation within the draft land 
management plans may have an impact on the potential losses of critical 
habitat due to wildfire. Suppression of wildfires within wilderness is 
generally a low priority nationally. Potential wilderness designations 
within caribou recovery and critical habitat should include measures 
for aggressive fire suppression to prevent losses of caribou habitat 
within wilderness.
    Our Response: The approval and implementation of land management 
plans on National Forest Service lands are Federal actions subject to 
section 7 consultation under the Act by the land management agency. The 
Service is not a land management agency in any of the areas being 
designated as critical habitat. The Act prohibits Federal agencies from 
carrying out actions that would destroy or adversely modify critical 
habitat. With regard to the above activities, it is the responsibility 
of the Federal land management agency to consider the effects of its 
actions on designated critical habitat. For purposes of critical 
habitat, section 7 consultation is only triggered when the Federal 
agency determines that its action may affect critical habitat. Actions 
that (1) may affect, but are not likely to adversely affect, or (2) 
result in wholly beneficial effects to critical habitat, are evaluated 
through informal consultation with the Service. It is the 
responsibility of Federal agencies to request formal section 7 
consultation for actions that may affect, and are likely to adversely 
affect critical habitat. During the consultation process, if we 
conclude that a proposed action is likely to result in the destruction 
or adverse modification of critical habitat, we are required to provide 
the Federal agency with a biological opinion describing reasonable and 
prudent alternatives to the action that would avoid the destruction or 
adverse modification of critical habitat. Such alternatives must be 
economically, as well as technologically, feasible (50 CFR 402.02). See 
the Effects of Critical Habitat Designation section for additional 
information on section 7 requirements as they relate to this final 
designation of critical habitat for the southern Selkirk Mountains 
population of woodland caribou.
    (48) Comment: Several commenters indicated that the designation of 
critical habitat would prevent certain land uses and land use 
management, specifically timber harvesting and wildfire suppression. 
One commenter expressed concern that curtailing timber management 
within the critical habitat area would result in greater fuel loads and 
increased risk of catastrophic fires, which in turn could threaten the 
southern Selkirk Mountains population of woodland caribou. The 
commenter stated that there are silvicultural practices that could 
benefit the caribou and its habitat over the long term.
    Our Response: Please refer to our response to comment 13 regarding 
fire and timber management. We acknowledge that natural wildfire plays 
an important role in maintaining a mosaic of forest successional stages 
that provides habitat for a variety of species endemic to this 
ecosystem, and that fire suppression can alter vegetative mosaics and 
species composition. Therefore, in this final rule we have incorporated 
language addressing the importance of developing and implementing a 
wildland fire use plan to allow for the appropriate non-suppression of 
naturally ignited fires, and the implementation of a prescribed fire 
program.
    (49) Comment: At least one commenter alleged, ``Federal land and 
resource agencies routinely act without prior consultation with the 
U.S. Border Patrol (USBP), and without regard to National Security 
implications.''

[[Page 71057]]

    Our Response: We disagree with the comment with respect to the 
Service. As we developed this final rule, we coordinated with the USBP 
through formal and informal notices, stakeholder calls, public 
meetings, presentations at Spokane Sector Border Management Task Force 
meetings, and interagency meetings. The purposes of this interaction 
were to share and clarify information regarding the proposed rule and 
to seek feedback on any concerns. Although we did not receive any 
written comments from the USBP in response to the proposed rule, we 
have fully considered all information provided by the agency during our 
various interactions in this final rule. See our response to comment 51 
with regard to USBP activities for additional information.
    (50) Comment: A few commenters were concerned that critical habitat 
designation for the southern Selkirk Mountains population of woodland 
caribou would affect USBP operations.
    Our Response: Throughout the critical habitat designation process, 
there was an erroneous public perception that designating critical 
habitat equated to a closure of the designated area. The Service does 
not manage any of the lands being designated as critical habitat. 
Further, the designation of critical habitat does not affect land 
ownership, or establish any closures, refuges, wilderness areas, 
reserves, preserves, or restrictions on use or access to the designated 
areas. The designation of critical habitat for the southern Selkirk 
Mountains population of woodland caribou would not restrict, regulate, 
or determine the ability of the USBP to operate in close proximity to 
the border. Within caribou habitat, the USBP operates, for the most 
part, on National Forest System lands and its existing roads and 
trails. The March 31, 2006, Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between 
the Secretary of the Interior, Secretary of Homeland Security, and 
Secretary of Agriculture Regarding Cooperative National Security and 
Counterterrorism Efforts on Federal Lands Along the U.S. Borders 
commits the agencies to preventing illegal entry into the United 
States, protecting Federal lands and natural and cultural resources, 
and where possible, preventing adverse impacts associated with illegal 
entry by cross-border-violators (CBVs). The intent of the MOU is to 
provide consistent goals, principles, and guidance related to border 
security, such as law enforcement operations; tactical infrastructure 
installation; utilization of roads; minimization and/or prevention of 
significant impact on or impairment of natural and cultural resources; 
implementation of the Wilderness Act, Endangered Species Act, and other 
related environmental laws, regulation, and policies across land 
management agencies; and provide for coordination and sharing 
information on threat assessments and other risks, plans for 
infrastructure and technology improvements on Federal lands, and 
operational and law enforcement staffing changes. Through this 2006 
MOU, and local groups such as the Spokane Sector Borderlands Management 
Task Force, the three departments are cooperating to understand, 
respect, and accomplish their respective missions. The MOU includes 
provisions for Customs and Border Protection (CBP) vehicle motor 
operations on existing public and administrative roads and/or trails 
and in areas previously designated by the land management agency for 
off-road vehicle use at any time, provided that such use is consistent 
with presently authorized public or administrative use. It also 
includes provisions for CBP requests for access to additional Federal 
lands (e.g., areas not previously designated by the land management 
agency for off-road use) for such purposes as routine patrols, 
nonemergency operational access, and establishment of temporary camps 
or other operational activities. The MOU states: ``Nothing in this MOU 
is intended to prevent CBP-BP agents from exercising existing exigent/
emergency authorities to access lands, including authority to conduct 
motorized off-road pursuit of suspected CBVs at any time, including in 
areas designated or recommended as wilderness, or in wilderness study 
areas when, in their professional judgment based on articulated facts, 
there is a specific exigency/emergency involving human life, health, 
safety of persons within the area, or posing a threat to national 
security, and they conclude that such motorized off-road pursuit is 
reasonably expected to result in the apprehension of the suspected 
CBVs.'' Accordingly, there is no verifiable information that would 
suggest the designation of critical habitat for the southern Selkirk 
Mountains population of woodland caribou would affect CBP operations.
    (51) Comment: A commenter stated that the Service does not 
understand that a Federal nexus exists on virtually every timber 
harvest on all land ownerships, be they Federal, State, or private. 
They believe that there are many places where the Federal Government 
has rules and regulations affecting timber harvest on all forested 
lands, and that any timber sale could be stopped within the area 
designated as critical habitat.
    Our Response: In the 29 years since the southern Selkirk Mountains 
population of woodland caribou was emergency listed in 1983 (48 FR 
1722), the States of Washington and Idaho have not been required to 
consult with the Service, as there has not been an activity with a 
Federal nexus (e.g., a Federal permit such as a Corp of Engineers (COE) 
404 permit, or the use of Federal funds). However, even if there was a 
Federal nexus, the timber harvest would not necessarily be prohibited. 
Federal action agencies must evaluate the potential effects of each 
action on its own merits, carrying out actions that would destroy or 
adversely modify critical habitat. A Federal action (e.g., winter 
recreation, energy transmission, mining, or road construction) that is 
not likely to cause destruction or adverse modification of caribou 
habitat may not be materially affected by a critical habitat 
designation. If a Federal action would result in destruction or adverse 
modification of caribou habitat, the Service would suggest reasonable 
and prudent alternatives to avoid the destruction or adverse 
modification of critical habitat. As stated earlier, during the section 
7 consultation process, if we conclude that a proposed action is likely 
to result in the destruction or adverse modification of critical 
habitat, we are required to provide the Federal agency with a 
biological opinion describing reasonable and prudent alternatives to 
the action that would avoid the destruction or adverse modification of 
critical habitat. Such alternatives must be economically, as well as 
technologically, feasible (50 CFR 402.02).
    (52) Comment: A commenter stated the proposed rule fails to include 
a discussion of the types of ``special management considerations or 
protections'' potentially needed that differ from current and recent 
uses. Therefore, the threats to habitat cannot be adequately addressed 
in the context of section 7 consultation or other measures. This is a 
reason for a more inclusive extent of critical habitat than what is 
proposed.
    Our Response: The proposed rule identifies the types of Federal 
actions that may affect critical habitat, and should result in section 
7 consultation (see Application of the ``Adverse Modification'' 
Standard), (76 FR 74030; November 30, 2011). For these types of 
actions, any management actions necessary for a particular Federal 
action would be case-specific and depend on

[[Page 71058]]

the outcome of the section 7 consultation process. Within the area 
designated as critical habitat for the southern Selkirk Mountains 
population of woodland caribou, the Service's 1994 Recovery Plan, and 
the CNF and IPNF LRMPs contain standards and guidelines pertaining to 
the management of the species and its habitat. See the Special 
Management Considerations or Protections section below for additional 
information.
    (53) Comment: Several commenters fear that, given the critical 
habitat designation is in response to a court-ordered settlement 
agreement in a case initiated by environmental organizations, the true 
intent of these environmental organizations is to close more public 
lands to access, and the designation of critical habitat is one way of 
accomplishing this.
    Our Response: The Service has no control over the future actions of 
environmental groups, recreational organizations, development or timber 
interests, governmental organizations, or others, with regard to their 
future responses to the final critical habitat designation. As stated 
earlier, throughout the critical habitat designation process, there was 
an erroneous public perception that designating critical habitat 
equated to a closure of the areas being designated. However, the 
designation of critical habitat does not affect land ownership, or 
establish any closures, refuges, wilderness areas, reserves, preserves, 
or restrictions on use or access to the designated areas. It does 
require that Federal agencies consult with us under section 7 of the 
Act if their actions may affect critical habitat. See our response to 
Comment 51 which discusses our section 7 consultation history since the 
southern Selkirk Mountains population of woodland caribou was listed 
under the Act.
    (54) Comment: One commenter asserted that since designation of 
critical habitat can potentially have significant impacts upon the 
environment, economy, and quality of life of people within the affected 
region, preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is 
warranted.
    Our Response: As stated in the proposed rule (76 FR 74033), outside 
the jurisdiction of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, we 
do not need to prepare environmental analyses pursuant to the National 
Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) in connection with designating critical 
habitat under the Act. We published a notice outlining our reasons in 
the Federal Register on October 25, 1983 (48 FR 49244). The U.S. Court 
of Appeals upheld this position for the Ninth Circuit (Douglas County 
v. Babbitt, 48 F.3d 1495 (Ninth Cir. 1995), cert. denied 516 U.S. 1042 
(1966)).
    (55) Comment: Two commenters, including the City of Bonners Ferry, 
commented that part of the watersheds for the City of Bonners Ferry's 
primary source of drinking water (Myrtle Creek and Snow Creek 
drainages) are within the proposed caribou critical habitat 
designation. These commenters oppose any further regulations or 
restrictions placed on the USFS, or any other entity, that would 
adversely affect the management of those watersheds for providing the 
City of Bonners Ferry's drinking water. One commenter recommended that 
consideration be given for removal of the Myrtle and Snow Creek 
watersheds from critical habitat designation, including areas beyond 
the watersheds, to control pollution, infestation, or wildfires.
    Our Response: Although the watershed for the City of Bonners Ferry 
is not included in the final critical habitat designation for the 
southern Selkirk Mountains population of woodland caribou, the Service 
appreciates and is sensitive to the City of Bonners Ferry's desire to 
protect the Myrtle and Snow Creek drainages, which are the primary 
sources of drinking water for the city. Federal agencies have been 
coordinating with the Service on the management of caribou and its 
habitat since this population was emergency listed in 1983. We 
recognize that uncontrolled wildfires can have devastating effects on 
the water quality of watersheds. Hence, the Service participated in the 
development of the Myrtle Creek Healthy Forest Restoration Project, 
which was designed in 2007 to reduce the wildfire risk in the Myrtle 
Creek watershed through management of hazardous fuels. Finally, we are 
committed to working with the USFS to develop a strategy that provides 
direction to the USFS for the use of natural and unplanned fires, and 
have incorporated language into the final rule addressing this issue.
    (56) Comment: Many commenters suggested that the Service should 
increase the proposed critical habitat designation due to climate 
change, while others commented that the proposed critical habitat 
designation should be decreased or not designated due to climate change 
predictions.
    Our Response: We acknowledge that climate change could change the 
suitability of southern Selkirk Mountains population of woodland 
caribou habitat in the future. However, we are required to designate 
critical habitat based upon the best available scientific data at the 
time that we finalize the designation. At this point in time, reliable 
projections of future climate change in caribou habitat are not 
available. We acknowledge that higher elevation habitat is likely to 
become increasingly important in the face of potential climate changes. 
In this regard, designated critical habitat includes high elevation 
habitat and migratory corridors between suitable habitat areas in the 
United States and Canada. We also find the best scientific information 
available suggests that the range of the southern Selkirk Mountains 
population of woodland caribou has largely shifted northward, and the 
vast majority of the areas that provide the essential PBFs for this 
population of woodland caribou now occur within Canada. See Criteria 
Used To Identify Critical Habitat below for a discussion of our 
rationale for constructing the critical habitat unit. Critical habitat 
can be revised under section 4(a)(3)(A)(ii) of the Act as appropriate, 
as additional scientific data on climate change or other significant 
information becomes available.
    (57) Comment: Some commenters suggested that, in the face of 
climate change, the threat from predation would increase and that, 
because of this increased threat, there was no need to designate 
critical habitat.
    Our Response: We acknowledge that climate change may have presently 
unknown effects on predation and other threats in the future. Utzig 
(2005 p. 10) states that it is impossible to predict specific changes 
to the ecosystems that contribute to caribou mortality (i.e., predation 
and other causes) due to climate change. However, the Service has a 
statutory obligation under section 4(b)(2) of the Act to designate 
critical habitat, in part, based on the best available scientific data 
available. Since there is no scientific information that would inform a 
reliable projection regarding the interaction between climate change 
and predation, we are unable to factor the concern raised into the 
final critical habitat designation.
    (58) Comment: During a public hearing, one commenter suggested that 
suitable habitat did not exist in the Selkirk Mountains due to changes 
in vegetation reflected in the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) 
Plant Hardiness Zone Maps. The commenter stated the Selkirk Mountains 
should not be designated as critical habitat, based on this 
information.
    Our Response: The USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Maps are based on 
average annual winter temperatures, and reflect standards by which

[[Page 71059]]

gardeners and growers can determine which plants are most likely to 
thrive in a given location. However, information provided by a Forest 
Ecologist/Forest Silviculturist with the IPNF (Zack 2012, pers. comm.), 
suggests that native vegetation species generally have adaptive 
tolerance to a range of climatic conditions, and that in the last few 
decades, the IPNF has not observed any shifts in boundaries for habitat 
type groups (e.g., subalpine fir/Engelmann spruce, and western hemlock/
western red cedar climax forests). Habitat types are land 
classifications based on potential natural vegetation defined as ``all 
those land areas potentially capable of supporting similar plant 
communities at climax.'' (Cooper, Neiman, Roberts. 1991. Forest Habitat 
Types of Northern Idaho: A second Approximation) (Zack 2012, pers. 
comm.). Similar to the IPNF, we do not anticipate any shifts of 
vegetation boundaries have occurred on the CNF with respect to habitat 
type groups (e.g., subalpine fir/Engelmann spruce, and western hemlock/
western red cedar climax forests) due to the fact that the CNF is 
within the same mountain range as the IPNF and containing similar 
elevations, soils, geology, precipitation patterns, etc., as the IPNF.

Federal Agency Comments

    (59) Comment: The U.S. Forest Service (USFS) Pacific Northwest 
Region commented that: (1) The proposed critical habitat rule cautions 
about management activities that reduce and fragment areas in a manner 
that creates a patchwork of different age classes or prevents young 
forests from achieving old-growth habitat characteristics; (2) part of 
the concern is that this patchwork draws other ungulates within 
proximity of caribou; and (3) this consequently brings in predators 
such as mountain lions and wolves. They also commented that within the 
cedar/hemlock and subalpine fir/spruce zones, there are instances of 
inclusions of lodgepole pine or other seral tree cover types, and that 
removing these seral trees through timber harvest or fire, and managing 
for shade-tolerant understory, could hasten the conversion of these 
sites to suitable caribou habitat. They requested that the Service 
characterize the degree to which created openings may be considered as 
management tools to maintain or promote suitable caribou habitat in 
such cases.
    Our Response: We are unable to identify a characteristic opening 
size within caribou habitat that would always be compatible with, or 
promote the development of, suitable caribou habitat. As the USFS 
suggests, created openings may facilitate the retention or development 
of old-growth characteristics suitable for use by caribou. However, the 
effective sizes of these openings would best be determined on a site-
specific basis, taking into consideration the existing forested 
ecological conditions and the natural disturbance history of the area. 
We will continue to work with the USFS to gain more information 
regarding these management options and their scientific applicability 
within caribou critical habitat areas.
    (60) Comment: The USFS commented that the proposed rule notes the 
IPNF and the CNF have vegetation management direction in existing 
Forest Plans, which contribute to the protection of the essential PBFs 
by analyzing timber management actions on a site-specific basis to 
consider impacts to caribou habitat. They commented that Forest Plan 
direction allows the USFS to treat areas to help trend capable habitat 
into suitable habitat for caribou, but the Application of the Adverse 
Modification Standard section in the proposed rule indicates that many 
silvicultural activities used to help trend capable habitat toward 
suitable habitat (e.g., thinning, prescribed fire, timber harvest) 
would adversely modify critical habitat. The USFS suggested adding a 
statement to the Application of the Adverse Modification Standard 
section clarifying that stands that are not currently suitable (i.e., 
have a preponderance of less desirable cover types such as lodgepole 
pine), and are not likely to attain suitability absent a stand-
replacing disturbance event, may need treatment to facilitate movement 
towards preferred cover types (such as subalpine fir).
    Our Response: We acknowledge that timber harvest in some situations 
may be used to achieve or promote a more rapid attainment of tree 
species composition or certain structural characteristics (e.g., old 
growth), and that the effects of silvicultural practices (e.g., 
commercial harvests, thinning, etc.) to critical habitat are scale-
dependent. We do not anticipate that either the IPNF or CNF would 
propose a timber harvest at the scale that would result in the adverse 
modification of critical habitat. For a proposed Federal action to 
result in adverse modification (i.e., substantially reduce the 
conservation value of the critical habitat area to an extent that would 
affect its ability to serve its intended recovery role), it would 
likely have to significantly alter large areas of high-elevation mature 
to old-growth western hemlock/western red cedar climax forest, or 
subalpine fir/Engelmann spruce climax forest, or significantly restrict 
caribou movement through such areas. The scale of such a project would 
be such that it would essentially affect the landscape, versus a forest 
stand or multiple forest stands. As stated previously, Federal agencies 
have been consulting with the Service on caribou, within the area 
designated as critical habitat, since the species was emergency listed 
in 1983. Many of these consultations involved timber harvest, and none 
of the consultations involving timber harvest resulted in jeopardy 
determinations. Therefore, in light of our history of consultations 
with Federal land management agencies, we find that it is unlikely that 
a Federal agency would propose a timber harvest project at a scale that 
would potentially represent jeopardy to the species and/or adverse 
modification of designated critical habitat. Nonetheless, should this 
occur, to avoid adverse modification we would most likely recommend 
reducing the scale of impacts to mature and old growth stands within 
western hemlock/western red cedar and subalpine fir/Engelmann spruce 
forests. If impacts are temporary or seasonal in nature and avoidance 
is not possible, the Service would most likely recommend temporary, 
seasonal timing constraints be employed to avoid disruption of caribou 
movement and/or seasonal habitat use.
    (61) Comment: The IPNF stated that blanket direction to always take 
rapid response measures whenever wildfire occurs in the area may be 
detrimental to other species (e.g., grizzly bear, lynx, and whitebark 
pine), and is not ecologically sustainable. They suggested a better 
course of action would be to rapidly analyze the appropriate actions to 
take (or perhaps not take), which considers the needs of all resources 
and species.
    Our Response: We agree that natural wildfire plays an important 
role in maintaining a mosaic of forest successional stages that 
provides habitat for a variety of species endemic to this ecosystem, 
and that fire suppression can alter vegetative mosaics and species 
composition. Therefore, in this final rule we have incorporated 
language addressing the importance of developing and implementing a 
wildland fire use plan to allow for the appropriate nonsuppression of 
naturally ignited fires, and the implementation of a prescribed fire 
program. Such a program would be prudent to implement across all IPNF 
ownership, including within the area designated as critical habitat for 
caribou.

[[Page 71060]]

    (62) Comment: The IPNF commented that language in the proposed rule 
pertaining to ``little to no disturbance'' within designated caribou 
critical habitat should be clarified. The IPNF is concerned over how 
this language may affect recreational activities such as snowmobiling 
and hiking, as well as U.S. Customs and Border activities.
    Our Response: One of the survival strategies of caribou is to 
spread out over large areas at high elevations, thereby reducing their 
density and, thus, susceptibility to predation (Seip and Cichowski 
1996, p. 79; MCTAC 2002, pp. 20-21; Kinley and Woods 2006, all). 
Fragmentation and loss of caribou habitat make it difficult for the 
species to spread out over large areas, and these have been identified 
as threats to caribou conservation (USFWS 2008, pgs. 16-17). Caribou 
are also sensitive to winter recreational activities, and may be 
displaced from habitat by recreational activities, especially 
snowmobiling (Kinley 2003, pg. 25; Seip et al. 2007, pg. 1543; Mahoney 
et al. 2001, pg. 42; Reimers et al. 2003, pg. 751; Tyler 1991, pgs. 
183-188). Additionally, one peer reviewer stated that interactions 
between caribou and hikers on preferred summer range may increase 
susceptibility of caribou to predation (Allen 2012, pers. comm.). Thus, 
recreational activities can exacerbate the effects of forest 
fragmentation and loss to caribou by further condensing caribou habitat 
use into smaller areas. Forcing caribou into smaller areas (i.e., 
increasing their density) may increase their susceptibility to 
predation. Predation, while not necessarily within the scope of this 
rule to address, is nonetheless a factor that has been identified as a 
long-term threat to caribou persistence. Therefore, the proposed rule 
suggests that human activities in designated caribou critical habitat 
should be minimized to reduce some of the ongoing effects of caribou 
habitat fragmentation upon the species. However, we acknowledge that 
the IPNF has implemented extensive measures to protect caribou and 
caribou habitat on its ownership, both within the area proposed for 
designation as critical habitat as well as the existing Selkirk 
Mountain Caribou Recovery Zone. Therefore, we do not foresee or 
anticipate substantive changes in the existing management of caribou or 
its habitat within the area designated as critical habitat on IPNF 
ownership.
    Regarding the final rule's effect upon USBP activities, the 
designation of critical habitat for southern Selkirk Mountains woodland 
caribou would not restrict, regulate, or determine the ability of the 
USBP to operate in close proximity to the border, as has previously 
been discussed in more detail in our response to comment 50.
    (63) Comment: The IPNF commented that much of the area listed as 
occupied by the southern Selkirk Mountains population of woodland 
caribou at the time of emergency listing was not actually occupied in 
1983, and suggested the Service designate a defined habitat (i.e., 
mature old growth subalpine fir--cedar hemlock) as occupied and 
unoccupied based on the recovery plan and other information on 
occupancy in 1983.
    Our Response: We have determined that the area generally depicted 
in Scott and Servheen (1984, p. 27), adjusted for elevation and habitat 
based on the seasonal habitat suitability model developed by Kinley and 
Apps (2007, entire) for the southern Selkirk Mountains ecosystem, 
represents the best available scientific information regarding the 
geographic area occupied by caribou at the time of listing. For further 
explanation, see comment 1.
    (64) Comment: The IPNF commented that the findings of Kinley and 
Apps (2007) should be used in conjunction with other stand-based data 
from land management agencies (i.e., the USFS and the IDL) to inform 
our final critical habitat designation.
    Our Response: The area we proposed for designation as southern 
Selkirk Mountains population of woodland caribou critical habitat was 
based on a synthesis of the best available scientific information that 
included Kinley and Apps (2007), as well as other relevant scientific 
documents and records pertaining to the historical and current 
distribution and habitat use of the southern Selkirk Mountains 
population of woodland caribou. We received numerous comments from 
various commenters including peer reviewers, Federal agencies, the 
State of Idaho, the Kalispel and Kootenai Tribes, and members of the 
public regarding the science we used and synthesized to develop the 
proposed designation. We utilized all substantive input from these 
commenters in refining the designation of critical habitat for the 
southern Selkirk Mountains population of woodland caribou in this final 
rule. Based on this input, the final designation differs from the 
proposed designation in several ways, which are identified in the 
Summary of Changes section of this rule.

Comments Related to Economics and the Draft Economic Analysis

    (65) Comment: The Bonner County Commissioners commented that 
economic impacts of recreational access restrictions will be 
significant, stating that local resorts reported losses of up to 70 
percent of their winter revenue following the first caribou closure. 
They expressed concern that Federal nexus situations could result in 
the County being prohibited from winter snowmobile trail grooming, and 
that additional businesses may close if further restrictions cut deeper 
into winter revenues of resorts, eating and drinking establishments, 
grocery stores, and other businesses that benefit from snowmobile 
revenues. This concern was also expressed by the State of Idaho. The 
County expressed concern that the loss of additional full-time 
employment could threaten the viability of the elementary school, which 
has only 45 students, and stated that Priest Lake's winter economy is 
fragile, based on recreational tourism, and sensitive to changes in 
recreational activities. Another commenter expressed concern about 
losing winter income due to trail closures, and requested an ``on the 
ground'' study to determine the economic impact on small entities. They 
stated that most of the communities around the proposed critical 
habitat are small and relied on timber products and logging as a 
primary income base for years, later adapting to a recreation-based 
economy.
    Response: The final designation of critical habitat has been 
reduced from 375,562 ac (151,985 ha) in the proposed critical habitat 
rule to 30,010 ac (12,145 ha) in this final rule (see response to 
Comment 1). There are no Bonner County lands included in the final 
designation. As a result, the only incremental economic impacts that 
would occur are the additional administrative costs to the Federal 
agencies associated with section 7 consultation in areas within the 
CNF, Idaho Panhandle (Kaniksu) National Forest, and Salmo-Priest 
Wilderness areas. We do not anticipate any economic costs to 
recreational interests beyond existing requirements under USFS 
management plans or other policies.
    (66) Comment: The Idaho State Snowmobile Association (ISSA) 
submitted an economic study completed by Forest Econ Inc. (FEI) on 
impacts that have occurred since 2005, looking primarily at recreation 
and timber harvesting (FEA, p. ES-6). The results of the study are 
based on assumptions that all forest owners would require Environmental 
Protection Agency (EPA) NPDES (National Pollutant Discharge Elimination 
System) permits for point source outfalls (i.e., logging roads), 
starting in 2010, and a subset of those

[[Page 71061]]

forest owners would have restrictions placed on timber harvesting due 
to southern Selkirk Mountains population of woodland caribou 
conservation efforts. The study expands its assumptions by projecting 
indirect effects to mills and other economic activities that depend on 
timber harvesting. As a result, the FEI study estimates $4.6 million in 
lost annual earnings to the timber industry in northern Idaho, $37,000 
in lost annual earnings in the Priest Lake area due to other forestry 
effects, and up to 76 recreational jobs lost in the Priest Lake area.
    Response: Forest Econ Inc. uses input-output modeling to analyze 
regional economic impacts (i.e., output and employment) on two spatial 
scales: impacts to the Priest Lake area and impacts to the broader 
Northern Idaho region. The main activities analyzed in the report are 
recreation and timber harvesting, which collectively make up the 
majority of the local winter economy in the Priest Lake area (46 
percent tourism and 16 percent wood products), according to the report. 
To analyze snowmobiling impacts, FEI began documenting economic impacts 
in 2005--the year in which Defenders of Wildlife, Conservation 
Northwest, the Lands Council, Selkirk Conservation Alliance, Idaho 
Conservation League, and Center for Biological Diversity challenged two 
biological opinions, which resulted in the injunction that restricted 
winter recreation through trail closures. The authors used two 
approaches to determine local effects of these events in the Priest 
Lake area: (1) a statistical analysis of changes in snowmobile trips 
using registration and groomer permits over the period of the analysis, 
and (2) detailed surveys of the economic impacts to local businesses. 
The table below summarizes these impacts, as predicted by FEI. This 
estimate to impacts to the local economies was based on the area 
originally proposed for designation, and not on the geographic area 
delineated within the final designation, which has been reduced by 
345,552 ac (139,840 ha) from the proposed rule. The analysis performed 
by Forest Econ, Inc., therefore, does not address the potential impacts 
of a much smaller critical habitat designation, which is now solely on 
USFS lands.

                          Table 1--Local Economic Impacts Reported by Forest Econ, Inc.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                                                    Lost annual
                 Impacts                           Location                    Jobs lost             earnings
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Recreation..............................  Priest Lake Area..........  26 (approach 1), 76                    N/A
                                                                       (approach 2).
Timber..................................  Northern Idaho............  126.......................      $4,600,000
Other Forestry Effects..................  Priest Lake Area..........  -12.......................          37,000
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

     (67) Comment: One commenter noted that it is important for the 
economic analysis to compare the local economy to other counties in 
Idaho without caribou restrictions, and to the national and 
international economies. The commenter also suggested that changes in 
snow precipitation over time should also be a factor considered within 
the immediate area and the broader regional economy. They stated that 
this approach would help distinguish the recovery area impacts from 
those that we have no immediate control over, but that we should be 
taking into consideration when undertaking any future planning.
    Response: Section 4(b)(2) of the Act requires, in part, that we 
take into consideration the economic impact of specifying any 
particular area as critical habitat. The economic analysis prepared for 
this final rule addresses that requirement by considering the 
incremental costs associated with the designation, which are above and 
beyond costs attributable to the listing of the southern Selkirk 
Mountains population of woodland caribou (i.e., the baseline costs). 
Accordingly, preparing an economic analysis that compares the local 
economy with other Idaho counties and the national and international 
economies would be beyond the scope of the proposed rule. Although the 
rationale behind the commenter's suggestion that we include snow levels 
as a factor evaluated in the economic analysis is not entirely clear, 
the suggested approach would not be relevant or informative to the 
final designation of critical habitat for this species.
    (68) Comment: The State of Idaho notes that there could be actions 
with a Federal nexus on IDL-managed lands that could trigger section 7 
consultation regarding caribou critical habitat and that are not 
recognized in the DEA. IDL expressed concern that the Service ignored 
costs of the designation under the presumption that there is no Federal 
nexus to initiate a section 7 consultation. The IDL questioned the 
rationale behind using the lack of a formal consultation history with 
the COE for section 404 permits on IDL lands as a prediction for future 
consultation requirements. The IDL also commented that the COE would 
have to initiate formal consultation due to prior case law surrounding 
the ``but for test'', and that since a majority of IDL stream crossing 
installations and upgrades are directly tied to timber sales due to the 
funding component, any timber sale management activity associated with 
the permitted installation could be subject to consultation.
    Response: Section 7(a)(2) of the Act requires that Federal agencies 
insure that any action authorized, funded, or carried out is not likely 
to jeopardize the continued existence of any endangered or threatened 
species, or destroy or adversely modify critical habitat. The Federal 
agency is responsible for contacting the Service for a list of 
endangered or threatened species and their critical habitats or 
technical assistance, and making the effects determination. The outcome 
of the Federal agency's effects determinations can include (1) no 
effect; (2) may affect, but not likely to adversely affect; or (3) may 
affect, and likely to adversely affect. With regard to critical 
habitat, formal consultation is only triggered for actions that are 
likely to adversely affect listed species. A Federal agency does not 
need to initiate formal consultation if, as a result of the preparation 
of a biological assessment under 50 CFR 402.12, or as a result of 
informal consultation with the Service under 50 CFR 402.13, the Federal 
agency determines (with the written concurrence of the Director), that 
the proposed action is not likely to adversely affect any listed 
species or critical habitat. Accordingly, formal section 7 consultation 
is not an unconditional requirement. Since there are no IDL lands being 
designated as critical habitat by this final rule, no additional 
requirements would be imposed on the State as a result of the critical 
habitat designation. However, Federal requirements could still be 
applicable on State lands for other activities (e.g., Clean Water Act 
permits or compliance with best management

[[Page 71062]]

practices associated with silvicultural exemptions for activities such 
as road construction, stream crossings, fill discharged into waters of 
the United States to support staging areas, rock quarries, landings, 
etc.).
    (69) Comment: IDL notes that on page 2-2, paragraph 35 of the DEA, 
there is direction in 2001 to measure coextensive impacts.
    Response: In 2001, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit 
instructed the Service to conduct a full analysis of all of the 
economic impacts of proposed critical habitat, regardless of whether 
those impacts are attributable coextensively to other causes. Since 
that decision, however, courts in other cases have held that an 
incremental analysis of impacts stemming solely from the critical 
habitat designation is proper (FEA p. 2-2), (Arizona Cattle Growers' 
Assoc. v. Salazar, 2009 U.S. App. Lexis 29107 (9th Cir. June 4, 2010)), 
Otay Mesa Property L.P. v. DOI, 2010 U.S. Dist. Lexis 52233 (D.D.C. May 
27, 2010)). Additionally, on October 3, 2008, the Department of 
Interior's Office of the Solicitor issued a Memorandum Opinion (M-
37016) that summarizes recent case law on this issue and corroborates 
that the incremental analysis of economic impacts is appropriate.
    (70) Comment: IDL stated that they completed a detailed analysis of 
the very real economic impact this proposed designation would cause, 
which was ignored by the Service. The IDL analysis projects the 
designation would significantly impact IDL's ability to manage over 
65,000 ac (26,260 ha) of forestlands, significantly reduce revenues to 
K-12 public education, and increase fire protection costs. The 
calculated value of timber revenue loss over the next 30 years was 
estimated to be $23,030,810, with an average annual loss of $713,470. 
The IDL analysis projected losses of 109,800 mbf of timber volume, 
1,976 jobs, $67,417,200 in foregone income, and $285,480,000 in 
foregone goods and services over a 30-year period. They also projected 
combined costs related to fire suppression to exceed $3,495,310 over a 
30-year period.
    Response: The basis for IDL's economic analysis is an assumption 
that IDL would be required to adopt Federal harvest restrictions and 
meet onerous and costly Federal requirements based on the presence of a 
Federal nexus for their activities, which we are unable to 
substantiate. Additionally, the presence of a Federal nexus does not 
necessarily equate to additional conservation measures being required 
for a particular activity, since there are several possible outcomes to 
section 7 consultation. Nevertheless, there are no IDL lands being 
designated as critical habitat in this final rule.
    (71) Comment: IDL stated concerns that any harvesting of stands 
with old-growth characteristics is considered habitat degradation, and 
may therefore be restricted if critical habitat is designated.
    Response: Based on a revision of the critical habitat boundaries, 
IDL lands are no longer included in the designation. As stated earlier, 
we do not expect changes in forest management on any lands solely due 
to the critical habitat designation for the southern Selkirk Mountains 
population of woodland caribou, since a jeopardy analysis under section 
7, which is triggered by the listing of a species under the Act, also 
considers harm to habitat. If a section 7 consultation were to be 
required on any timber lands that had old growth characteristics, it is 
unlikely that any project modifications in that area would be 
attributable solely to the critical habitat designation, since any 
conservation measures required to avoid jeopardy would likely be 
identical to measures needed to avoid adverse modification of critical 
habitat.
    (72) Comment: The U.S Forest Service noted two concerns about the 
economic analysis that relate to management of lands within IPNF: (1) 
the analysis does not consider the effects on summer recreation and the 
business that supports those activities, and (2) the analysis only 
considers activities with a Federal nexus, therefore missing effects on 
businesses that support recreation.
    Response: Recreation in IPNF varies by season. In the spring, 
summer, and fall, activities include use of recreational vehicles 
(ATVs, motorcycles), sight-seeing, wildlife viewing, hiking, mountain 
biking, horseback riding, camping, geo-caching, hunting, fishing, 
photography, and berry picking, while in the winter, activities include 
snowmobiling, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and trapping. 
Currently, recreational activities do not have much effect on caribou 
habitat, but can affect the use of the habitat by caribou through 
disturbance. The IPNF already consults with the Service on the southern 
Selkirk Mountains population of woodland caribou, so the incremental 
effect of the designation will involve including consideration of the 
potential for adverse modification of caribou habitat as part of each 
consultation. Under the Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA; 5 U.S.C. 601 
et seq.), as amended, and following recent court decisions, Federal 
agencies are only required to evaluate the potential incremental 
impacts of rulemaking on those entities directly regulated by the 
rulemaking itself, and not the potential impacts to indirectly affected 
entities. The regulatory mechanism through which critical habitat 
protections are realized is section 7 of the Act, which requires 
Federal agencies, in consultation with the Service, to insure that any 
action authorized, funded, or carried by the Agency is not likely to 
adversely modify critical habitat. Therefore, only Federal action 
agencies are directly subject to the specific regulatory requirement 
(avoiding destruction and adverse modification) imposed by critical 
habitat designation. Under these circumstances, it is our position that 
only Federal action agencies will be directly regulated by this 
designation.
    (73) Comment: The State of Idaho commented that: (1) Critical 
habitat designation prohibits adverse modification of critical habitat, 
a standard that is largely unmeasurable and unquantifiable; (2) all 
activities occurring on Federal, State, and private land designated as 
critical habitat that have a Federal nexus will have to go through 
additional and costly consultation with the Service to ensure that 
those activities are not impacting critical habitat for the southern 
Selkirk Mountains population of woodland caribou; (3) significant and 
costly changes associated with how land-use activities are authorized 
and carried out is anticipated with designation of critical habitat; 
and (4) they were concerned about future requirements to obtain a 
point-source NPDES permit for forest roads, or other as yet unknown 
Federal nexus situations created by further mandates.
    Our Response: The following responses correspond to the comment 
numbers: (1) Caribou are habitat specialists, relying on boreal forest 
habitats for their survival. Therefore, due to the caribou's precarious 
population status and because the project-related impacts will most 
likely affect the persistence, development, and recycling of caribou 
habitat, we anticipate that the measures required to avoid adverse 
modification and those required to avoid jeopardy will, in most 
instances, be identical. Federal agencies have been consulting with the 
Service on the potential effects of proposed actions on the southern 
Selkirk Mountains population of woodland caribou since this population 
was emergency listed in 1983. Consultation, under the jeopardy 
standard, has been completed on these activities with nonjeopardy 
findings. Proposed projects have ranged from timber harvests and fuels 
management to recreational

[[Page 71063]]

development. We expect that, for a proposed action to result in 
jeopardy or adverse modification (in other words substantially reduce 
the conservation value of caribou habitat to such an extent that would 
affect its ability to serve its intended recovery role), it would 
likely have to significantly alter large areas of high-elevation mature 
to old-growth western hemlock/western red cedar climax forest or 
subalpine fir/Engelmann spruce climax forest, or restrict caribou 
movement through such areas. Therefore, similar to consultations 
completed under the jeopardy standard, we do not anticipate the 
proposal of any project at a scale that would adversely modify critical 
habitat. (2) As stated above, Federal agencies have been consulting 
with the Service on the potential effects of proposed actions on the 
southern Selkirk Mountains population of woodland caribou since this 
population was emergency listed in 1983. We do not anticipate the need 
to complete additional consultations for new projects proposed in areas 
designated as critical habitat that would not otherwise be subject to 
section 7 consultations. We acknowledge that there may be a few ongoing 
projects, for which consultation under the jeopardy standard has been 
completed, that consultation may need to be reinitiated to address 
critical habitat. However, we do not anticipate that the economic costs 
required to reinitiate consultation for ongoing projects will be 
significant. (3) For the above stated reasons, and because Federal 
agencies that manage land within the critical habitat area already take 
extensive measures to protect the caribou, we do not foresee or 
anticipate substantive changes in the existing management of caribou or 
its habitat. (4) We acknowledge that there exists some uncertainty as 
to how the recent court decision regarding the EPA administration of 
NPDES permits related to point-source discharges stemming from use of 
forest roads; however, we cannot project when, or if, changes to 
permitting for roads or other yet unknown situations may occur that 
would require additional section 7 consultation with Federal agencies 
such as the EPA, for activities on State lands. However, should this 
ruling stand, consultation on the species in occupied areas will be 
required under the regulations, regardless of the critical habitat 
designation.
    (74) Comment: Bonner County commented that the level of economic 
impact on Bonner County and the Priest Lake Area was out of balance 
with the low probability that the southern Selkirk Mountains population 
of woodland caribou will inhabit the proposed critical habitat area in 
the future.
    Our Response: There are no Bonner County or Priest Lake area lands 
being designated as critical habitat in the final designation.

Summary of Changes From Proposed Rule

    As discussed previously in the Summary of Comments and 
Recommendations section, comments submitted by the peer reviewers, 
State of Idaho, Kootenai Tribe of Idaho, and others caused us to 
reexamine our analysis used to determine critical habitat in the 
proposed rule. As a result, we are designating critical habitat for the 
southern Selkirk Mountains population of woodland caribou on 30,010 ac 
(12,145 ha) of Federal land in Boundary County, Idaho, and Pend Oreille 
County, Washington. The final designation represents a reduction of 
approximately 345,552 ac (139,840 ha) from the critical habitat 
originally proposed for designation (76 FR 74018, November 30, 2011); 
and reflects a 1,000-ft (about 300-m) change in elevation from 4,000 ft 
(1,220 m) in the proposed rule, to an elevation at or above 5,000 ft 
(1,520 m), based on the results of population surveys since the time of 
listing and a seasonal habitat suitability model developed by Kinley 
and Apps (2007, entire) as discussed below. This reduction is primarily 
a function of: (1) Census monitoring documenting low numbers of 
individual caribou in the United States during annual surveys; (2) the 
proximity of the animals that have been observed in the United States 
to the U.S.-Canadian border; (3) the lack of long-term success of 
several herd augmentation efforts involving over 100 caribou from herds 
in British Columbia to recover the population in the United States; (4) 
information indicating that the recovery objectives identified in the 
1994 recovery plan are outdated and need to be revised to reflect the 
current needs of this population; and (5) ongoing efforts in Canada to 
secure and manage habitat to conserve Selkirk Mountain caribou 
populations in British Columbia, each of which is discussed in more 
detail below.
    There are four primary factors we considered in developing our 
final designation that resulted in this change from the proposed rule: 
(1) A revised determination of the geographical area occupied by the 
southern Selkirk Mountains population of woodland caribou at the time 
of listing based on comments we received, including those from peer 
reviewers, which caused us to reevaluate surveys conducted by Scott and 
Servheen (1984, 1985), as well as census monitoring documenting low 
numbers of individual caribou observed in the United States during 
annual surveys, (2) information and literature reporting the overall 
decline of the subspecies mountain caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou) 
across its range, and in particular the decline of woodland caribou 
populations in the southern extent of their range, including the 
southern Selkirk Mountains population of woodland caribou; (3) 
information on areas currently conserved and managed for the 
conservation of woodland caribou in the Selkirk Mountains in British 
Columbia, Canada, including the status of the Canadian recovery actions 
for mountain caribou; and (4) the applicability as well as the status 
of the recovery objectives identified in the 1994 Selkirk Mountains 
Woodland Caribou Recovery Plan (USFWS 1994).
    In developing our November 30, 2011 (76 FR 74018), proposed rule 
for critical habitat, our first step was to identify areas that 
provided for the conservation of the southern Selkirk Mountains 
population of woodland caribou within the geographical region described 
as the approximate area of normal utilization in the listing rule (49 
FR 7390; February 29, 1984). This area of normal utilization included 
portions of the CNF in Washington and the IPNF in Idaho, and some 
Priest Lake Endowment Lands managed by the state of IDL. Critical 
habitat boundaries were identified at or above 4,000 ft (about 1,220 m) 
in elevation, which corresponds to the elevation above which the 
woodland caribou are generally known to occur within the southern 
Selkirk Mountains ecosystem in Idaho and Washington (Layser 1974, p. 
25-26; USFWS 1994, p. 6; USFWS 2008a, p. 2). We then overlaid seasonal 
telemetry radiolocations collected from caribou that were translocated 
into the southern Selkirk Mountain ecosystems (British Columbia, Idaho, 
and Washington), from 1987 through 2004 by the IDFG, Washington 
Department of Fish and Wildlife, and the Fish and Wildlife Compensation 
Program (Columbia Basin) in British Columbia. To further refine the 
proposed critical habitat boundaries, we overlaid currently defined 
recovery area boundaries, caribou movement corridors mapped by the IPNF 
(USFS 2004, pp. 22-23), and results of the seasonal habitat suitability 
model developed by Kinley and Apps (2007, entire) for the southern 
Selkirk Mountains ecosystem. Isolated patches and some larger areas 
were removed

[[Page 71064]]

because they either lacked PCEs, were adjacent to Schweitzer ski 
resort, or had relatively low historical utilization based on telemetry 
data. We included certain areas below 4,000 ft (about 1,220 m) in 
elevation where seasonal connectivity between habitats was required.
    After considering the peer reviewers' comments, we now consider 
studies conducted by Scott and Servheen (1984, 1985) to be the most 
definitive with regard to determining occupancy at the time the caribou 
was listed in 1983 (48 FR 1722). During their study in 1983-1984, which 
was conducted in the Selkirk Mountains in southeastern British 
Columbia, northern Idaho, and northeastern Washington, Scott and 
Servheen (1984, pp. 16-28) documented extensive use by caribou of 
habitat in British Columbia in drainages just north and adjacent to 
B.C. Highway 3. In contrast, they documented use of habitat in the 
United States by only two bull caribou located near Little Snowy Top 
and Upper Hughes Ridge in Idaho, and Sullivan Creek in Washington (p. 
19). Caribou were not documented any further south within Washington or 
Idaho during the course of helicopter and ground tracking surveys. 
Consequently, we have determined that the area generally depicted in 
Scott and Servheen (1984, p. 27), adjusted for elevation and habitat 
based on the seasonal habitat suitability model developed by Kinley and 
Apps (2007, entire) for the southern Selkirk Mountains ecosystem, 
represents the best available scientific information regarding the 
geographical area occupied by the southern Selkirk Mountains population 
of woodland caribou at the time of listing. This is further supported 
by annual census surveys conducted by IDFG and Canada (DeGroot and 
Wakkinen, 2012), which have documented zero to four individual caribou 
observed only near the border within the United States from 2001 
through 2012 (DeGroot and Wakkinen 2012, Table 2). This new analysis of 
which areas were occupied at the time of listing, which areas are 
documented to be occupied based on recent annual surveys, and which 
areas are essential to the conservation of the southern Selkirk 
Mountains population of woodland caribou greatly reduced the amount of 
area included in our final designation from our proposed rule.
    We evaluated the area we now consider to have been occupied by the 
southern Selkirk Mountains population of woodland caribou at the time 
of listing, the results of population surveys, and the 1994 Selkirk 
Mountains Woodland Caribou Recovery Plan. We have determined that the 
recovery plan is outdated and no longer represents the best available 
science with regard to the essential conservation needs of the southern 
Selkirk Mountains population of woodland caribou, as was recognized in 
the 2008 5-year review of this population. Our 5-year review 
acknowledged that the recovery criteria no longer reflect the best 
available and most up-to-date information on the biology of the species 
and its habitat, and that since 1994, a great deal of information has 
been collected regarding the southern Selkirk Mountains population of 
woodland caribou and their habitat (USFWS 2008a, p. 15). When the 
population was listed, it consisted of 25-30 individuals, whose 
distribution centered primarily in British Columbia (Scott and Servheen 
1985, p. 12). Between 1987 and 1990, the population was augmented with 
60 animals from source herds in British Columbia, which were placed in 
Idaho. The 1994 recovery plan objectives center on maintaining an 
increasing population, securing and managing habitat, and establishing 
a third herd in Washington State using donor animals from British 
Columbia. Between 1996 and 1998, the population was augmented with 43 
additional animals, some of which were placed in Washington, and some 
of which were placed north of the border. Although 103 caribou were 
translocated to the United States, none of the above augmentation 
efforts resulted in a long-term improvement in caribou distribution 
within the recovery area identified in the 1994 recovery plan. Rather, 
for reasons not fully understood, this population of caribou appears to 
be primarily dependent upon the availability of habitat in British 
Columbia, based on the results of annual population monitoring surveys 
(see Table 2).

                             Table 2--Caribou Census Information, 1991 Through 2012
                           [From USFS 2004, p. 7 and DeGroot and Wakkinen 2012, p. 12]
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                                      US--BC
                     Year                                     Area                 observations    Caribou total
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
1991.........................................  US                                             26              47
                                               BC                                             21
1992.........................................  US                                             24              47
                                               BC                                             23
1993.........................................  US                                             23              51
                                               BC                                             28
1994.........................................  US                                             13              45
                                               BC                                             32
1995.........................................  US                                          13(a)              52
                                               BC                                             39
1996.........................................  US                                             12              39
                                               BC                                             27
1997(b)......................................  US                                              9              39
                                               BC                                             30
1998(c)......................................  US                                             31              45
                                               BC                                             14
1999(d)......................................  US                                              6              48
                                               BC                                             42
2000.........................................  US                                              3              34
                                               BC                                             31
 
2001.........................................                    No census due to low snowpack
 

[[Page 71065]]

 
2002.........................................  US                                              2              34
                                               BC                                             32
2003.........................................  US                                              1           41(e)
                                               BC                                             40
2004.........................................  US                                              3              33
                                               BC                                             30
2005.........................................  US                                              2           35(f)
                                               BC                                             33
2006.........................................  US                                              1           29-38
                                               BC                                             33
2007.........................................  US                                              2           43-44
                                               BC                                       42 or 43
2008(g)......................................  US                                              3              46
                                               BC                                             43
2009(g)......................................  US                                              2              46
                                               BC                                             41
2010(g)......................................  US                                              2              43
                                               BC                                             41
2011(g)......................................  US                                              0              36
                                               BC                                             36
2012(g)......................................  US                                              4              27
                                               BC                                             27
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
a--Known incomplete count (tracks of a small group [2-4] detected but animals not observed during helicopter
  flight.
b--Includes 19 animals released in 1996.
c--Includes 13 animals released in 1997.
d--Includes 11 animals released in 1998.
e--Likely some double counting and therefore not a reliable count.
f--Not a complete census. Must be considered a minimum count.
g--Combination fixed wing/helicopter survey.

    This table reflects a significant decline in the number of caribou 
documented in the United States, other than in the years immediately 
following several augmentation efforts. Based on the best available 
information, the Service does not consider the extensive areas 
identified in the 1994 recovery plan to be essential to the 
conservation of the species.
    In addition, the future availability of caribou from British 
Columbia herds for augmentation within the United States is 
questionable, given the significant declines in the British Columbia 
populations and overall lack of success of prior augmentation efforts 
(US GAO 1999, Appendix 4). Future recovery planning efforts will need 
to take into consideration the best available information, including 
that gained as a result of this final critical habitat designation. In 
accordance with section 4(f)(1) of the Act, the recovery plan will 
describe site-specific management actions needed for the conservation 
and survival of the southern Selkirk Mountains population of woodland 
caribou; identify objective and measureable recovery criteria; and 
estimate the time and costs required to carry out the measures 
identified in the recovery plan. Prior to the development of a revised 
recovery plan, the Service will request scientific information, as well 
as input from the public, tribes, Federal, State, and local agencies. 
There will also be an opportunity for public review and comment on a 
draft recovery plan prior to its final approval.
    We reviewed the most recent literature describing the overall 
decline of the mountain ecotype of woodland caribou, of which the 
southern Selkirk Mountains population of woodland caribou is considered 
to be aligned based on their movement and feeding behavior (Cichowski 
et al., 2004, pp. 235-236; Wittmer 2005, entire; USFWS 2008a, entire). 
Historically, woodland caribou were distributed throughout much of 
Canada and portions of the northern United States, where they were 
widespread and numerous when the first Europeans arrived in British 
Columbia (Spalding 2000, p. 40). Since that time, the overall 
geographical range for woodland caribou has been reduced, with most of 
the reduction occurring in the southern extent of its historical range 
(Spalding 2000, p. 40). By the 1990s, woodland caribou were considered 
one of the most critically endangered mammals in the world (U.S. GAO 
1999, p. 5). It has been estimated that nearly 60 percent of the 
woodland caribou's historical range has been lost in western North 
America (Hatter pers. comm. in Spalding 2000, p. 40).
    British Columbia contains three ecotypes of woodland caribou: the 
boreal caribou, the northern caribou, and the mountain caribou, of 
which the southern Selkirk Mountains population is part. For the 
mountain caribou ecotype, there has been a long-term population decline 
and range reduction in British Columbia (Siep and Cichowski 1996, p. 
74), with one estimate that mountain caribou have been eliminated from 
as much as 43 percent of their historical range in British Columbia 
(MCTAC 2002, pp. v, 5). Most mountain caribou ecotype populations 
contain fewer than 100 individuals, and the majority of populations are 
declining (MCTAC 2002, p. 6; Wittmer et al. 2005, Table 2). Trends in 
populations are varied, but southern populations appear to be 
decreasing more rapidly than northern ones (Wittmer et al. 2005, p. 
411). In one extreme example, the population estimate in the Purcell 
Mountains in southern British Columbia declined from over 60 
individuals in 1995, to only 14 in 2009 (Kinley 2010, Figure 4).
    In the United States, the sole remaining population of caribou is 
the southern Selkirk Mountains population of woodland caribou (US GAO 
1999, p. 4; Cichowski 2010, Figure 1; Poole and

[[Page 71066]]

Mowat 2001, p. 2001). When the population was listed in 1983, it 
consisted of 25 to 30 animals, whose distribution centered primarily 
around Stagleap Provincial Park in British Columbia. As stated earlier, 
between 1987 and 1990, the population was augmented with 60 animals 
from source herds in British Columbia that were placed in the Idaho 
portion of the Selkirk ecosystem, and between 1996 and 1998, the 
population was augmented with 43 animals, some of which were placed in 
Washington, and some of which were placed just north of the border in 
British Columbia (USFWS 2008a, p. 15). As noted above in our occupancy 
discussion, surveys from 2001 through 2010, have indicated that most 
individuals of this population were observed in British Columbia 
(DeGroot and Wakkinen 2012, Table 2). This information also comports 
with the earlier Scott and Servheen reports on caribou ecology (1984, 
1985), which state, ``as the number of U.S. sightings declined since 
the early 1970s, concern has mounted that caribou may be abandoning the 
U.S. portion of their range.''
    Our reassessment of the best available information at this point in 
time leads us to conclude that the majority of habitat essential to the 
conservation of the southern Selkirk Mountains population of woodland 
caribou occurs in British Columbia, Canada, and that although the U.S. 
portion of the habitat used by the caribou makes an essential 
contribution to the conservation of the species, habitat on the U.S. 
side of the border is not independently capable of conserving the 
species to the extent anticipated at the time the 1994 recovery plan 
was developed. The geographical area that provides the PBFs essential 
to the conservation of the species, therefore, spans the border, and 
most of it lies in Canada. Since we can only designate critical habitat 
within the United States (50 CFR 424.12(h)), we are designating those 
areas within the United States that we consider to have been occupied 
at the time of listing, as described above, and that provide the PBFs 
essential to the conservation of the species.
    The 1994 Selkirk Mountains Woodland Caribou Recovery Plan (USFWS 
1994) recommended that an area of approximately 443,000 ac (179,000 ha) 
would be needed to support a recovered population of the southern 
Selkirk Mountains population of woodland caribou in the Selkirks (p. 
31). It further states that the conservation of these habitats is an 
important element of caribou recovery, and that research will better 
define these habitats (p. 31). Prior to the 1987 translocation effort, 
a study on the population characteristics of the southern Selkirk 
Mountains population of woodland caribou was initiated that provided 
background stating, ``Concern has mounted in recent years that caribou 
many be abandoning the United States portion of their range * * * '' 
(Scott and Servheen 1984, p. 16). Other than the geographical areas 
Scott and Servheen (1984) identified in their study that were occupied 
at the time of listing, the recovery areas identified in the 1994 
recovery plan are not being utilized by caribou. Many of those areas 
listed in the recovery plan were, and continue to be, USFS lands 
managed for the southern Selkirk Mountains population of caribou, and 
contain one or more of the PBFs identified in this rule. However, for 
reasons not fully understood, this population of woodland caribou 
continues to make greater use of habitat in Canada than would be 
predicted, based on the availability of habitat in the United States as 
identified in the Kinley and Apps (2007) modeling study. Consequently, 
we no longer find the extensive areas initially identified for the 
recovery of the woodland caribou population within the United States to 
be essential to the conservation of the species.
    We have determined that an area of approximately 30,010 ac (12,145 
ha) within the United States was occupied by the southern Selkirk 
Mountains population of woodland caribou at the time of listing and 
provides the PBFs essential to the conservation of the species, and 
which may require special management considerations or protection. This 
area therefore meets the definition of critical habitat for the 
southern Selkirk Mountains population of woodland caribou. We also 
assessed the total area of lands likely needed by the southern Selkirk 
Mountains population of the woodland caribou, without regard to 
international boundaries. We determined that the 30,010 ac (12,145 ha) 
at an elevation of 5,000 ft (1,520 m) and above designated as critical 
habitat within the Selkirk Mountains in the United States, combined 
with the amount of habitat protected and managed for woodland caribou 
within Canada, meets the amount of habitat recommended to be secured 
and enhanced in the 1994 Recovery Plan (443,000 ac, 179,000 ha) to 
support a recovered population (USFWS 1994, pp. 28, 30-31). Currently, 
Canada has protected 282,515 ac (114,330 ha) of Crown Lands from 
further timber harvest within the Selkirk Mountains to support woodland 
caribou conservation (DeGroot, pers. comm. 2012). The Nature 
Conservancy of Canada also recently purchased approximately 135,908 ac 
(55,000 ha) of the former Darkwoods property located within the Selkirk 
Mountains in British Columbia, and halted all logging activities in 
woodland caribou habitat (The Nature Conservancy of Canada 2011, p. 4; 
DeGroot pers. comm. 2012). These Nature Conservancy lands are 
essentially surrounded by the protected Crown Lands described above. 
Thus, adding the designation of 30,010 ac (12,145 ha) of critical 
habitat in the United States to the habitats currently protected and 
conserved for woodland caribou in Canada provides approximately 448,443 
ac (181,478 ha) of habitat protected within the Selkirk Mountains for 
woodland caribou conservation. Additionally, areas in the United States 
designated as critical habitat for the species are immediately adjacent 
with, and contiguous to, the Crown Lands protected in Canada for 
woodland caribou conservation. The protection of these connected 
habitats in the United States and British Columbia will facilitate 
continued woodland caribou movement and seasonal habitat use and other 
behaviors that this population currently and historically exhibited.
    Therefore, on the basis of this reevaluation of the best available 
data and the information provided in the 1994 Recovery Plan for the 
Selkirk Mountains Woodland Caribou, we are designating 30,011 ac 
(12,145 ha) at an elevation of 5,000 ft (1,520 m) and above, on Federal 
lands in Boundary County, Idaho, and Pend Oreille County, Washington, 
as critical habitat for the southern Selkirk Mountains population of 
woodland caribou in the United States. This area represents our best 
assessment of the area occupied by the species at the time of listing 
in 1983 that provides the PBFs essential to the conservation of the 
species. This area, when combined with areas secured and protected for 
the conservation of the species in British Columbia, meets the area 
requirements recommended in the original recovery plan for the species. 
Although the recovery plan, as written, envisioned that more of the 
recovery area for the species would fall within the United States, the 
best scientific information available indicates that the range of the 
southern Selkirk Mountains population of woodland caribou has largely 
shifted northward, and that the vast majority of the areas that provide 
the essential habitats for this population of woodland caribou now 
occurs within

[[Page 71067]]

Canada. As stated earlier, multiple efforts to augment the existing 
woodland caribou population with more than 100 animals from source 
herds in British Columbia between 1987 and 1990, and 1996 and 1998, 
have not resulted in any long-term improvement in caribou distribution 
throughout the southern Selkirk Mountains. The number of woodland 
caribou detected in the United States has continued to dwindle and 
annual census surveys continue to find the majority of the remaining 
population occupying habitats in British Columbia. Due to what appears 
to be an ongoing range contraction of the woodland caribou population 
from the southern extent of its former range, and the overall decline 
of the mountain ecotype of woodland caribou in British Columbia, in 
particular the more southern populations, we have determined that there 
are no areas within the United States outside the geographical area 
occupied at the time of listing that are essential to the conservation 
of the species.
    An additional change from our proposed rule was the refinement in 
our description of PCE 1 to more accurately reflect the seasonal 
habitats utilized by the southern Selkirk Mountains population of 
woodland caribou. This refinement did not affect the amount of acreage 
designated for critical habitat. In addition, we broadened our 
description of essential habitats for PCE 2 to include high-elevation 
basins, as well as ridgetops that are at or above 6,000 ft (1,830 m)--
regardless of snowpack level, since pregnant females from the southern 
Selkirk Mountains population of woodland caribou were reported to 
prefer alpine habitats at all scales irrespective of forested 
conditions. These changes are discussed in the Primary Constituent 
Elements (PCEs) below, and in the Physical or Biological Features 
section. The PCEs presented in the proposed rule (76 FR 74081) were 
revised based on peer review and public comments, and information 
received in response to the proposed critical habitat designation. A 
more detailed discussion of the factors we used to identify critical 
habitat for this final rule can be found in the ``Criteria Used to 
Identify Critical Habitat.''

Critical Habitat

Background

    Critical habitat is defined in section 3 of the Act as:
    (1) The specific areas within the geographical area occupied by the 
species, at the time it is listed in accordance with the Act, on which 
are found those physical or biological features
    (a) Essential to the conservation of the species and
    (b) Which may require special management considerations or 
protection; and
    (2) Specific areas outside the geographical area occupied by the 
species at the time it is listed, upon a determination that such areas 
are essential for the conservation of the species.
    Conservation, as defined under section 3 of the Act, means to use 
and the use of all methods and procedures that are necessary to bring 
an endangered or threatened species to the point at which the measures 
provided pursuant to the Act are no longer necessary. Such methods and 
procedures include, but are not limited to, all activities associated 
with scientific resources management such as research, census, law 
enforcement, habitat acquisition and maintenance, propagation, live 
trapping, and transplantation, and, in the extraordinary case where 
population pressures within a given ecosystem cannot be otherwise 
relieved, may include regulated taking.
    Critical habitat receives protection under section 7 of the Act 
through the requirement that Federal agencies ensure, in consultation 
with the Service, that any action they authorize, fund, or carry out is 
not likely to result in the destruction or adverse modification of 
critical habitat. The designation of critical habitat does not affect 
land ownership or establish a refuge, wilderness, reserve, preserve, or 
other conservation area. Such designation does not allow the government 
or public to access private lands. Such designation does not require 
implementation of restoration, recovery, or enhancement measures by 
non-Federal landowners. Where a landowner requests Federal agency 
funding or authorization for an action that may affect a listed species 
or critical habitat, the consultation requirements of section 7(a)(2) 
of the Act would apply, but even in the event of a destruction or 
adverse modification finding, the obligation of the Federal action 
agency and the landowner is not to restore or recover the species, but 
to implement reasonable and prudent alternatives to avoid destruction 
or adverse modification of critical habitat.
    Under the first prong of the Act's definition of critical habitat, 
areas within the geographical area occupied by the species at the time 
it was listed are included in a critical habitat designation if they 
contain those physical and biological features (PBFs) (1) which are 
essential to the conservation of the species and (2) which may require 
special management considerations or protection. For these areas, 
critical habitat designations are defined by, to the extent known using 
the best scientific and commercial data available, those PBFs that are 
essential to the conservation of the species (such as space, food, 
cover, and protected habitat). In identifying those physical and 
biological features, we focus on the principal biological or physical 
constituent elements (primary constituent elements such as roost sites, 
nesting grounds, seasonal wetlands, water quality, tide, soil type) 
that are essential to the conservation of the species. Primary 
constituent elements are the elements of PBFs that provide for a 
species' specific life-history processes and are essential to the 
conservation of the species.
    Under the second prong of the Act's definition of critical habitat, 
we can designate critical habitat in areas outside the geographical 
area occupied by the species at the time it is listed, upon a 
determination that such areas are essential for the conservation of the 
species. For example, an area currently occupied by the species but 
that was not occupied at the time of listing may be essential to the 
conservation of the species and may be included in the critical habitat 
designation. We designate critical habitat in areas outside the 
geographical area occupied by a species only when a designation limited 
to its range would be inadequate to ensure the conservation of the 
species.
    Section 4 of the Act requires that we designate critical habitat 
based on the best scientific and commercial data available. Further, 
our Policy on Information Standards Under the Endangered Species Act 
(published in the Federal Register on July 1, 1994 (59 FR 34271)), the 
Information Quality Act (section 515 of the Treasury and General 
Government Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2001 (Pub. L. 106-554; 
H.R. 5658)), and our associated Information Quality Guidelines, provide 
criteria, establish procedures, and provide guidance to ensure that our 
decisions are based on the best scientific data available. They require 
our biologists, to the extent consistent with the Act and with the use 
of the best scientific data available, to use primary and original 
sources of information as the basis for recommendations to designate 
critical habitat.
    When we are determining which areas should be designated as 
critical habitat, our primary source of information is

[[Page 71068]]

generally the information developed during the listing process for the 
species. Additional information sources may include the recovery plan 
for the species, articles in peer-reviewed journals, conservation plans 
developed by States and counties, scientific status surveys and 
studies, biological assessments, other unpublished materials, or 
experts' opinions or personal knowledge.
    Habitat is dynamic, and species may move from one area to another 
over time. Climate change will be a particular challenge for 
biodiversity because the interaction of additional stressors associated 
with climate change and current stressors may push species beyond their 
ability to survive (Lovejoy 2005, pp. 325-326). The synergistic 
implications of climate change and habitat fragmentation are the most 
threatening facet of climate change for biodiversity (Hannah et al. 
2005, p.4). Current climate change predictions for terrestrial areas in 
the Northern Hemisphere indicate warmer air temperatures, more intense 
precipitation events, and increased summer continental drying (Field et 
al. 1999, pp. 1-3; Hayhoe et al. 2004, p. 12422; Cayan et al. 2005, p. 
6; Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 2007, p. 1181). 
Climate change may lead to increased frequency and duration of severe 
storms and droughts (Golladay et al. 2004, p. 504; McLaughlin et al. 
2002, p. 6074; Cook et al. 2004, p. 1015).
    The information currently available on the effects of global 
climate change and increasing temperatures does not make sufficiently 
precise estimates of the location and magnitude of the effects. Nor are 
we currently aware of any climate change information specific to the 
habitat of the southern Selkirk Mountains population of woodland 
caribou that would indicate what areas might become important to the 
species in the future. Therefore, as explained in the proposed rule (76 
FR 74028), we are unable to determine what additional areas, if any, 
may be appropriate to include in the final critical habitat for this 
species to address the effects of climate change.
    We recognize that critical habitat designated at a particular point 
in time may not include all of the habitat areas that we may later 
determine are necessary for the recovery of the species. For these 
reasons, a critical habitat designation does not signal that habitat 
outside the designated area is unimportant or may not be needed for 
recovery of the species. Areas that are important to the conservation 
of the species, both inside and outside the critical habitat 
designation, will continue to be subject to: (1) Conservation actions 
implemented under section 7(a)(1) of the Act, (2) regulatory 
protections afforded by the requirement in section 7(a)(2) of the Act 
for Federal agencies to insure their actions are not likely to 
jeopardize the continued existence of any endangered or threatened 
species, and (3) the prohibitions of section 9 of the Act if actions 
occurring in these areas may affect the species. Federally funded or 
permitted projects affecting listed species outside their designated 
critical habitat areas may still result in jeopardy findings in some 
cases. These protections and conservation tools will continue to 
contribute to recovery of this species. Similarly, critical habitat 
designations made on the basis of the best available information at the 
time of designation will not control the direction and substance of 
future recovery plans, habitat conservation plans (HCPs), or other 
species conservation planning efforts if new information available at 
the time of these planning efforts calls for a different outcome.
    The protections of the Act, and the need to consult on Federal 
activities (or projects where there is a Federal nexus) apply when a 
proposed Federal action may directly or indirectly affect a listed 
species and/or designated critical habitat. For the southern Selkirk 
Mountains population of woodland caribou, the area occupied by the 
species at the time of emergency listing in 1983, which serves as the 
basis for this determination of critical habitat, is not the same as 
the area that may currently be occupied by the species (50 CFR 424.02). 
For example, we have anecdotal, but unconfirmed, reports of live and 
dead caribou, tracks, and shed antlers within the United States portion 
of the recovery area described in the 1994 recovery plan, from 2000 
through 2008 (USFWS 2008b, pp. 86-87), which have been reported during 
all seasons and in both Washington and Idaho. Our standard under 
section 4(b)(2) is to apply the best available scientific data 
available when identifying areas that meet the definition of critical 
habitat (e.g., areas that are essential to the conservation of the 
species). We do not find anecdotal reports of caribou sightings 
satisfies this standard, and they have not been considered for purposes 
of this final critical habitat designation.

Physical or Biological Features

    In accordance with section 3(5)(A)(i) and 4(b)(1)(A) of the Act and 
regulations at 50 CFR 424.12, in determining which areas within the 
geographical area occupied by the species at the time of listing to 
designate as critical habitat, we consider the PBFs that are essential 
to the conservation of the species and which may require special 
management considerations or protection. These include, but are not 
limited to:
    (1) Space for individual and population growth and for normal 
behavior;
    (2) Food, water, air, light, minerals, or other nutritional or 
physiological requirements;
    (3) Cover or shelter;
    (4) Sites for breeding, reproduction, or rearing (or development) 
of offspring; and
    (5) Habitats that are protected from disturbance or are 
representative of the historical, geographical, and ecological 
distributions of a species.
    We derive the specific PBFs essential for the southern Selkirk 
Mountains population of woodland caribou from studies of this species' 
habitat, ecology, and life history as described in the Critical Habitat 
section of the proposed rule to designate critical habitat published in 
the Federal Register on November 30, 2011 (76 FR 74018), and in the 
information presented below. Additional information can be found in the 
final listing rule published in the Federal Register on February 26, 
1984 (49 FR 7390) and the 1994 Revised Recovery Plan for the Selkirk 
Mountains Woodland Caribou, and the Southern Selkirk Mountains Caribou 
Population 5-Year Review completed by the Service on December 2, 2008 
(USFWS 2008a). We have determined that the southern Selkirk Mountains 
population of woodland caribou requires the following physical or 
biological features:
Space for Individual and Population Growth and for Normal Behavior
    The southern Selkirk Mountains population of woodland caribou 
requires large contiguous areas of high-elevation coniferous forest 
summer and winter habitat, with little or no vehicle access and 
disturbance, so the caribou can spread out at low densities (i.e., 30-
50 caribou/250,000 ac (100,000 ha)) and avoid predators (Seip and 
Cichowski 1996, p. 79; Stevenson et al. 2001, p. 1). Mountain caribou 
strongly prefer old-growth forests to young forests in all seasons 
(Stevenson et al. 2001, p. 1).
    The primary long-term threat to the southern Selkirk Mountains 
population of woodland caribou is the ongoing loss and fragmentation of 
contiguous old-growth forests and forest habitats due to a combination 
of timber harvest, wildfires, and road development. The

[[Page 71069]]

effects associated with habitat loss and fragmentation are: (1) 
Reduction of the amount of space available for caribou, limiting the 
ecological carrying capacity; (2) reduction of the arboreal lichen 
supply, affecting the caribou's key winter food source; (3) potential 
impacts to caribou movement patterns; (4) potential effects to the 
caribou's use of remaining fragmented habitat because suitable habitat 
parcels will be smaller and discontinuous; and (5) increased 
susceptibility of caribou to predation as available habitat is 
compressed and fragmented (Stevenson et al. 2001, p. 10; MCTAC 2002, 
pp. 20-22; Cichowski et al. 2004, pp. 242; Apps and McLellan 2006, pp. 
92-93; Wittmer et al. 2007, pp. 576-577).
    Forest management practices have been one of the greatest concerns 
for caribou habitat management since the mid-1970s (Stevenson et al. 
2001, p. 1; MCTAC 2002, p. 17; British Columbia 2004, p. 242). Improved 
road access, developments in log processing that resulted in better 
utilization of smaller trees, suitable sites for conducting summer 
logging, and other forest product demands have increased interest in 
some areas of caribou winter ranges for timber harvesting (Cichowski et 
al. 2004, p. 242). Timber harvest has moved into high-elevation mature 
and old growth forest habitat types due to more roads and more powerful 
machinery capable of traversing difficult terrains (Stevenson et al. 
2001, p. 10). Timber harvesting can reduce and fragment areas creating 
a patchwork of different age classes of forest stands of the caribou's 
preferred old-growth lichen-bearing forests. While this multi-aged 
class forest patchwork may contain sufficient lichens to support a 
caribou herd, it also likely increases caribou predation in the 
southern Selkirk ecosystem (Stevenson et al. 2001, p. 1). Patchwork 
forest habitats provide suitable habitat for other ungulates such as 
moose (Alces alces), elk (Cervus elaphus), and deer (Odocoileus spp.) 
into close proximity with caribou, and consequently support increased 
number of predators, including mountain lions (Felis concolor), wolves 
(Canis lupus), coyotes (Canis latrans), wolverines (Gulo gulo luscus), 
black bears (Ursus americanus), and grizzly bears (Ursus arctos) (Seip 
and Cichowski 1996, p. 79; Wittmer et al. 2005, pp. 414-417).
    The southern mountain ecotype of woodland caribou, of which the 
southern Selkirk Mountains population belongs, prefers high-elevation 
(over 5,000 ft (1,520 m)) mature to old-growth coniferous forests to 
limit the effects of predation by spreading out over these large, 
contiguous areas at high elevations that other ungulate species avoid 
(Seip and Cichowski 1996, p. 79; MCTAC 2002, pp. 20-21; Cichowski et 
al. 2004, p. 230-231; Kinley and Woods 2006, entire). Residing on large 
contiguous forest areas, caribou are unprofitable prey (i.e., it is not 
worth a predator's energy investment to seek out prey when there are so 
few animals in a large area, which is often in deep snow). To 
adequately provide for their habitat needs throughout the four seasons 
of a year, large contiguous areas of mature to old-growth western 
hemlock/western red cedar forests and subalpine fir and Engelmann 
spruce forests, and the connecting habitat in-between, are required. In 
order for the southern Selkirk Mountains population of woodland caribou 
to be able to use these areas, the habitats need to be connected, 
particularly during winter when the energy costs of moving through deep 
snow can be high (Stevenson et al. 2001, p. 15).
Food, Water, Air, Light, Minerals, or Other Nutritional or 
Physiological Requirements
    Arboreal hair lichens are a critical winter food for the southern 
Selkirk Mountains population of woodland caribou diet, which is 
composed almost entirely of lichens from November to May (Servheen and 
Lyon 1989, p. 235; Stevenson et al. 2001, p. 1; USFS 2004, p. 18), when 
lichens represent the only primary food source available (Paquet 1997, 
p. 13). Lichens are pulled from the branches of conifers, picked from 
the surface of the snow after being blown out of trees by wind, or are 
grazed from wind-thrown branches and trees. The two kinds of lichens 
commonly eaten by the southern Selkirk Mountains population of woodland 
caribou are Bryoria spp. and Alectoria sarmentosa; both are most 
commonly found in high-elevation climax forests on old trees (Paquet 
1997, p. 14). These lichens are extremely slow growing, and are 
typically abundant only in mature or old growth forests (Paquet 1997, 
p. 2). Relative humidity, wetting and drying cycles, and amount of 
light are ultimately the controlling factors of lichen growth.
    During the spring (MCTAC 2002, p. 11), the southern Selkirk 
Mountains population of woodland caribou moves to lower elevations 
where snow has melted, to forage on new green vegetation (Paquet 1997, 
p. 16). In summer months, the southern Selkirk Mountains population of 
woodland caribou moves back to mid- and upper- elevation spruce/alpine 
fir forests (Paquet 1997, p. 16). Summer diets include selective 
foraging of grasses, flowering plants, horsetails, willow and dwarf 
birch leaves and tips, sedges, lichens (Paquet 1997, pp. 13, 16), and 
huckleberry leaves (USFS 2004, p. 18). The fall and early winter diet 
consists largely of dried grasses, sedges, willow and dwarf birch tips, 
and arboreal lichens.
Sites for Breeding, Reproduction, or Rearing (or Development) of 
Offspring
    In spring (April 20-July 7), the southern Selkirk Mountains 
population of woodland caribou moves to areas with green vegetation, 
which becomes the primary food source. These areas often overlap with 
early and late winter ranges at elevations where new, green vegetation 
is appearing (Servheen and Lyon 1989, p. 235; MCTAC 2002, p. 11), which 
allows the animals to recover from the effects of winter (USFWS 1994, 
p. 7). Pregnant females will move to these spring habitats for forage, 
but during the calving season from June 1 to July 7, the need to avoid 
predators influences habitat selection. Areas selected for calving are 
typically high-elevation, alpine and nonforested areas in close 
proximity to old-growth forest ridgetops, as well as high-elevation 
basins that can be food limited, but are more likely to be predator 
free (USFWS 1994, p. 8; MCTAC 2002, p. 11; Cichowski et al. 2004, p. 
232, Kinley and Apps 2007, p. 16). Arboreal lichen becomes the primary 
food source for pregnant females and females with calves, since green 
forage is unavailable in these secluded and high-elevation habitats.
Habitats That Are Protected From Disturbance or Are Representative of 
the Historical, Geographical, and Ecological Distributions of a Species
    In general, seasonal habitats of the southern Selkirk Mountains 
population of woodland caribou consist of: (1) Five seasons (early 
winter, late winter, spring, calving, and summer) (Kinley and Apps 
2007, p. 7); and (2) habitats primarily within two vegetation zones 
(i.e., western hemlock/western red cedar and subalpine fir/Engelmann 
spruce forests) (USFS 2004, p. 18; USFWS 2008a, p. 20). Early winter is 
a period of rapid snow accumulation and generally extends from October 
17 to January 18 (Kinley and Apps, p. 7). Kinley and Apps (2007, p. 15) 
reported that during this time caribou in the southern Selkirk 
Mountains ecosystem are often associated with landscapes dominated by 
spruce and subalpine fir stands with a forest canopy closure of at 
least 26-50 percent; and preferred habitats were strongly related to 
old forests. At a fine scale analysis, a study

[[Page 71070]]

by Scott and Servheen (1984, p. 30) that involved ground-tracking six 
radio-collared caribou from the southern Selkirk Mountains population 
of woodland caribou reported that habitat selection during early winter 
seemed to be stand conditions that minimized snow depth with dense 
canopies of 76-100 percent in old-growth western hemlock/cedar forests 
with large, lichen-bearing branches. Scott and Servheen (1984, p. 36) 
reported that the primary selection factor was for habitat types 
providing snow-free-foraging areas around trees with dense canopy 
covers at elevations approximately 4,950 feet (1,509 m) and below.
    Caribou seek out these more closed-canopy timber stands where they 
feed on a combination of lichen on wind-thrown trees, and lichens that 
have fallen from standing trees (litterfall) (MCTAC 2002, p. 10). If 
available, shrubs and other forbs that remain accessible in snow wells 
under large trees are also consumed. A conifer canopy that intercepts 
snow and allows access to feeding sites is important (MCTAC 2002, p. 
10) until the snowpack consolidates and the caribou can move to higher 
elevations (USFS 2004, p. 18). However, these elevational shifts can be 
quite variable within and between years, depending on snow levels (Apps 
et al. 2001, p. 67; Kinley et al. 2007; p. 94). All mountain caribou 
experience the poorest mobility and food availability of any season 
during early winter because of the typically deep, soft snow (MCTAC 
2002, p. 10).
    Late winter generally starts around January 19 and extends to about 
April 19 (Kinley and Apps, 2007 p. 7). During this time, the snowpack 
is deep (up to 16 ft (5 m) on ridgetops), and firm enough to support 
the animal's weight, which allows easier movement. These upper slopes 
and ridge tops are: (1) Generally higher in elevation; (2) support 
mature to old stands of subalpine fir and Engelmann spruce; (3) have 
canopies similar to early winter habitat (generally 26 to 50 percent 
cover) (Kinley and Apps, 2007, p. 15); and (4) have high levels of 
arboreal lichen (USFWS 1994, p. 6; MCTAC 2002, p. 10; USFS 2004, p. 18; 
USFWS 2008a, p. 20).
    Increasing levels of winter recreational activities (e.g., 
snowmobiling) within the southern Selkirk Mountains population of 
woodland caribou recovery area, which includes the CNF in Washington 
and IPNF in Idaho, is an emerging threat to the southern Selkirk 
Mountains population of woodland caribou. The numbers and distribution 
of recreational snowmobilers has increased over the last 10-15 years, 
due in part to improved snowmobile technology and the increasing 
popularity of the sport. Snowmobiling activities have the potential to 
displace caribou from suitable habitat, resulting in additional energy 
expenditure by caribou when they vacate an area to avoid disturbance 
(Tyler 1991, p. 191; Cichowski et al. 2004, p. 241). This results in an 
effective loss of habitat availability temporarily, and potentially for 
the long term if caribou abandon areas characterized by chronic 
disturbance.
    Spring is usually from around April 20 to July 7 (Kinley and Apps 
2007, p. 7), when caribou move to areas that have green vegetation to 
recover from the effects of winter (Servheen and Lyon 1989, p. 235; 
USFWS 1994, p. 7). July to around October 16 is considered the summer 
habitat season for caribou. During both seasons, Kinley and Apps (2007, 
p. 15) report the southern Selkirk Mountains population of woodland 
caribou is associated with spruce and subalpine fir that also provides 
thermal cover, although summer habitat is in higher elevations with a 
preference for valleys (Kinley and Apps 2007, p. 15), and habitat with 
high forage availability (USFWS 1994, p. 8). In the Selkirk Mountains, 
the shallow slopes used in late summer are characteristically high-
elevation benches, secondary stream bottoms and riparian areas, and 
seeps where forage is lush and abundant (Servheen and Lyon 1989, p. 
236).
    In the fall (generally October 17 into November (Kinley and Apps 
2007, p. 7)), the southern Selkirk Mountains population of woodland 
caribou may gradually move to western hemlock dominated forests as the 
availability of forage vegetation such as vascular plants disappears. 
It is during this time of year when the southern Selkirk Mountains 
population of woodland caribou is making the transition from green 
forage to arboreal lichens (Servheen and Lyon, 1989, p. 236). As winter 
nears, the annual cycle of habitat use by the southern Selkirk 
Mountains population of woodland caribou repeats.
Primary Constituent Elements for the Southern Selkirk Mountains 
Population of Woodland Caribou
    Under the Act and its implementing regulations, we are required to 
identify the physical and biological features essential to the 
conservation of the southern Selkirk Mountains population of woodland 
caribou in areas occupied at the time of listing, focusing on the 
features' primary constituent elements. Primary constituent elements 
are those specific elements of the PBFs that provide for a species' 
specific life-history processes and are essential to the conservation 
of the species.
    Based on our current knowledge of the PBFs and habitat 
characteristics required to sustain the southern Selkirk Mountains 
population of woodland caribou's life-history processes, we determine 
that the primary constituent elements specific to the southern Selkirk 
Mountains population of woodland caribou are:
    i. Mature to old-growth western hemlock (Tsuga heterophylla)/
western red cedar (Thuja plicata) climax forest, and subalpine fir 
(Abies lasiocarpa)/Engelmann spruce (Picea engelmanni) climax forest at 
least 5,000 ft (1,520 m) in elevation; these habitats typically have 
26-50 percent or greater canopy closure.
    ii. Ridge tops and high-elevation basins that are generally 6,000 
ft (1,830 m) in elevation or higher, associated with mature to old 
stands of subalpine fir (Abies lasiocarpa)/Engelmann spruce (Picea 
engelmanni) climax forest, with relatively open (approximately 50 
percent) canopy.
    iii. Presence of arboreal hair lichens.
    iv. High-elevation benches and shallow slopes, secondary stream 
bottoms, riparian areas, and seeps, and subalpine meadows with 
succulent forbs and grasses, flowering plants, horsetails, willow, 
huckleberry, dwarf birch, sedges and lichens. The southern Selkirk 
Mountains population of woodland caribou, including pregnant females, 
use these areas for feeding during the spring and summer seasons.
    v. Corridors/Transition zones that connect the habitats described 
above. If human activities occur, they are such that they do not impair 
the ability of caribou to use these areas.
    The PBFs for the southern Selkirk Mountains population of woodland 
caribou are, therefore, the arrangement of the above habitat types and 
their components and transition zones on the landscape in a manner that 
supports seasonal movement, feeding, breeding, and sheltering needs. 
Each of the seasonal use areas creates space on the landscape that 
allows caribou to spread out and avoid predators. These areas also have 
little or no disturbance from forest practices, roads, or recreational 
activities.
    With this designation of critical habitat, we define the PBFs 
essential to the conservation of the species, through the 
identification of the features' primary constituent elements sufficient 
to support the life-history processes of the species.

[[Page 71071]]

Special Management Considerations or Protections

    When designating critical habitat, we assess whether the specific 
areas within the geographical area occupied by the species at the time 
of listing contain features that are essential to the conservation of 
the species and which may require special management considerations or 
protection.
    A comprehensive discussion of the threats affecting the species is 
included in the southern Selkirk Mountains Caribou Population 5-Year 
Review (USFWS 2008a), the Idaho Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation 
Strategy (2005), and the Revised Selkirk Mountains Woodland Caribou 
Recovery Plan (USFWS 1994). The features essential to the conservation 
of the southern Selkirk Mountains population of woodland caribou, 
described above, may require special management considerations or 
protections to reduce the following threats: Habitat fragmentation of 
contiguous old-growth forests due to forest management practices and 
activities, wildfire, disturbances such as roads and recreation, and 
altered predator/prey dynamics.
    Special management considerations or protection are required within 
critical habitat areas to address these threats. Management activities 
that could ameliorate these threats include, but are not limited to, 
conservation measures and actions to minimize the effects of forest 
management practices on the PBFs, actions to minimize the potential for 
wildfire and the implementation of rapid-response measures, as 
appropriate, when wildfire occurs, road and recreational area closures 
as appropriate to avoid or minimize the potential for disturbance-
related impacts, and reducing opportunities for predator-caribou 
interactions.
    The United States-Canada border in the Selkirk Mountains is remote, 
rugged, and permeable to the southern Selkirk Mountains population of 
woodland caribou. Illegal border-related activities and resultant law 
enforcement response (such as increased human presence, and vehicles 
including trucks, motorcycles, and all-terrain-vehicles), has the 
potential to cause adverse effects in these remote areas. While current 
levels of law enforcement activity do not pose a threat, a substantial 
increase in activity levels could be of concern. We note that some 
level of law enforcement activity can be beneficial, as it decreases 
illegal traffic. Significant increases in illegal cross-border 
activities in the designated critical habitat areas could pose a threat 
to the southern Selkirk Mountains population of woodland caribou, and 
therefore, to a degree, border security actions provide a beneficial 
decrease in cross-border violations and their impacts. There are no 
known plans to construct security fences in the designated critical 
habitat. We do not anticipate impermeable fencing being built in areas 
with rugged terrain. Technological solutions and other tactics for 
Homeland Security purposes would be more likely to be applied in these 
areas.

Existing Conservation Measures

    Land and resource management plans (LRMPs) for the IPNF and CNF 
have been revised to incorporate management objectives and standards to 
address the above threats, as a result of section 7 consultation 
between the USFWS and USFS (USFWS 2001a, b). Standards for caribou 
habitat management have been incorporated into the IPNF's 1987 and 
CNF's 1988 LRMP, respectively, to avoid the likelihood of jeopardizing 
the continued existence of the species, contribute to caribou 
conservation, and ensure consideration of the biological needs of the 
species during forest management planning and implementation actions 
(USFS 1987, pp. II-6, II-27, Appendix N; USFS 1988, pp. 4-10-17, 4-38, 
4-42, 4-73-76, Appendix I).
    These efforts contribute to the protection of the essential PBFs 
by: (1) Retaining mature to old-growth cedar/hemlock and subalpine 
spruce/fir stands; (2) analyzing timber management actions on a site-
specific basis to consider potential impacts to caribou habitat; (3) 
avoiding road construction through mature old-growth forest stands 
unless no other reasonable access is available; (4) placing emphasis on 
road closures and habitat mitigation based on caribou seasonal habitat 
needs and requirements; (5) controlling wildfires within southern 
Selkirk Mountains population of woodland caribou management areas to 
prevent loss of coniferous species in all size classes; and (6) 
managing winter recreation in the CNF in Washington, with specific 
attention to snowmobile use within the Newport/Sullivan Lake Ranger 
District.

Criteria Used To Identify Critical Habitat

    As required by section 4(b)(1)(A) of the Act, we used the best 
scientific and commercial data available to designate critical habitat. 
We reviewed available information pertaining to the habitat 
requirements of this species. In accordance with the Act and its 
implementing regulation at 50 CFR 424.12(e), we considered whether 
designating additional areas--outside those currently occupied as well 
as those occupied at the time of listing--are necessary to ensure the 
conservation of the species. We are designating critical habitat in 
areas within the geographical area occupied by the species at the time 
of emergency listing in 1983 (48 FR 1722; January 14, 1983). 
Information we used to inform this designation includes:
    (1) The emergency listing rule (48 FR 1722; January 14, 1983);
    (2) The final listing rule (49 FR 7390; February 29, 1984);
    (3) The 1985 Management/Recovery Plan for Selkirk Caribou (USFWS 
1985) and appendices;
    (4) The Revised Recovery Plan for the Selkirk Mountains Woodland 
Caribou (USFWS 1994);
    (5) The Southern Selkirk Mountains Caribou Population 5-Year Review 
(USFWS 2008a);
    (6) The Biological Opinion and Conference Opinion for the Modified 
Idaho Roadless Rule for USDA Forest Service Regions 1 and 4 (USFWS 
2008b);
    (7) Biological opinions for the continued implementation of both 
the Colville National Forest and Idaho Panhandle National Forest Land 
and Resource Management Plans (USFWS 2001a, b);
    (8) Site-specific reports including seasonal habitat models and 
movement corridor for the southern Selkirk Mountain Woodland Caribou 
(Kinley and Apps 2007, entire; Wakkinen and Slone 2010, entire);
    (9) The Idaho Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy (2005);
    (10) Research published in peer-reviewed articles, academic theses, 
agency reports, and mapping information from U.S. and Canadian sources;
    (11) Peer review and public comments in response to the proposed 
critical habitat designation; and
    (12) The telemetry database compiled by Kinley for the Idaho 
Department of Lands Critical Habitat Modeling for the South Selkirk 
Ecosystem (Kinley and Apps 2007) Habitat Suitability Model (HSM) 
analysis (referred to hereafter as ``telemetry'').
    This database incorporated 17 years (1987-2004) of telemetry 
location coordinates from 117 animals of the southern Selkirk Mountains 
population of woodland caribou. Telemetry data was collected by the 
IDFG, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, and the Fish and 
Wildlife Compensation Program (Columbia Basin) in British Columbia, and 
was used to assess

[[Page 71072]]

utilization of the habitats considered for the final critical habitat 
designation. We also used regional Geographic Information System (GIS) 
data (such as species occurrence data, land use, elevation, topography, 
aerial imagery, and land ownership maps) for area calculations and 
mapping.
    In the proposed critical habitat rule (76 FR 74028; November 30, 
2011), we identified areas that provide for the conservation of the 
southern Selkirk Mountains population of woodland caribou based on the 
geographical area described as the approximate area of normal 
utilization in the emergency listing rule (48 FR 1722; January 14, 
1983) and final listing rule (49 FR 7390; February 29, 1984). The 
approximate area of normal utilization encompassed approximately 
2,396,500 ac (969,829 ha) in both Canada and the United States; 
1,405,000 ac (568,583 ha) of which was located within the United 
States, and included northeast Washington and northern Idaho. Lands 
managed by the CNF in Washington, the IPNF in Idaho, and some Priest 
Lake Endowment Lands managed by IDL were included within the boundary 
of the approximate area of normal utilization described in the above 
listing rules. In the proposed critical habitat rule, critical habitat 
boundaries were identified at or above 4,000 ft (about 1,220 m) in 
elevation, which corresponded to the elevation of the recovery area 
established in the State of Washington, but is below the 4,500 ft 
(1,370 m) recovery area established for the State of Idaho. We then 
overlaid seasonal telemetry radiolocations collected from caribou that 
were translocated into the southern Selkirk Mountain ecosystems 
(British Columbia, Idaho, and Washington), from 1987 through 2004 by 
the IDFG, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, and the Fish and 
Wildlife Compensation Program (Columbia Basin) in British Columbia. To 
further refine the proposed critical habitat boundaries, we overlaid 
caribou movement corridors mapped by the IPNF (USFS 2004, pp. 22-23), 
and results of the seasonal habitat suitability model developed by 
Kinley and Apps (2007, entire) for the southern Selkirk Mountains 
ecosystem. Isolated patches and some larger areas were removed because 
they either lacked PCEs, were adjacent to Schweitzer ski resort, or had 
relatively low historical utilization based on telemetry data. We 
included certain areas below the 4,000 ft (about 1,220 m) in elevation 
where seasonal connectivity between habitats was required. The 
resulting area encompassed 345,552 ac (139,840 ha), as depicted in the 
proposed critical habitat rule published on November 30, 2011 (76 FR 
74028).
    Comments by the Kootenai Tribe, State of Idaho, peer reviewers and 
other parties suggested methods to refine the proposed critical habitat 
boundary, including a Habitat Suitability Model (HSM) by Kinley and 
Apps (2007), and a Migratory Corridor Study (MCS) by Wakkinen and Slone 
(2010). The HSM was developed to determine the relative quality of an 
area in terms of the five seasonal habitats that caribou could utilize 
(early winter, late winter, spring, calving, summer), and is a scale-
dependent habitat model for the southern Selkirk Mountains population 
of woodland caribou. This model is based upon peer-reviewed methodology 
and has been utilized for 16 other subpopulations of mountain woodland 
caribou in Canada (Kinley and Apps 2007, p. 23 and Apps et al. 2001, 
entire). Areas were scored from 0 to 1 for each season, based on the 
probability that the area provided good caribou habitat (Kinley and 
Apps 2007, p.16). Service GIS staff aggregated the five seasonal GIS 
layers into one layer keeping the highest score at every location. This 
output was then filtered to only show areas with a score greater than 
or equal to 0.5, as HSM scores greater than or equal to 0.5 gave the 
best prediction of suitable habitat for the southern Selkirk Mountains 
population of woodland caribou (Kinley and Apps 2007, p16). This 
filtered layer was used in all of our analysis incorporating HSM.
    We assessed various scenarios using the aggregate HSM to show 
habitat quality captured, and the telemetry points from Kinley and Apps 
(2007) to infer utilization by caribou. Only HSM areas with a score 
greater than or equal to 0.5 were considered when assessing scenarios. 
Acreage and percentage differences between scenarios were made in GIS 
using the proposed critical habitat (76 FR 74018) as the baseline. For 
reference purposes, the total HSM greater than or equal to 0.5 within 
the United States in the final critical habitat rule is 22,178 ac 
(8,975 ha), and was 151,825 ac (61,441 ha) in the proposed critical 
habitat rule.
    The Kootenai Tribe of Idaho recommended using areas with an HSM 
score greater than or equal to 0.5 with a minimum patch size of 40 ac 
(16 ha), combined with the MCS corridors for connectivity. The tribe 
suggested that areas outside the proposed critical habitat boundary 
should be included, and that the IPNF's caribou suitable habitat layer 
(PNF-SH) should be used for assessing suitable habitat. The tribe 
incorporated an analysis of efficiency of habitat designation based on 
the percentage of telemetry points or habitat within the proposed 
critical habitat and their suggested habitat's area. By definition, 
this scenario captures a very high proportion of high-ranking habitat 
(99 percent of the HSM greater than or equal to 0.5, and 93 percent of 
telemetry points). We reviewed this scenario and observed that it did 
not provide for inter-patch movement. The MCS corridors provided 
regional connectivity, but 40 patches of habitat remained that were not 
connected. We also concluded that the HSM was a better measure of 
habitat quality than PNF-SH. This was because there was limited 
information available on the PNF-SH model, and the utilization of the 
HSM for identifying critical habitat was cited by other peer reviewers 
and commenters, unlike the PNF-SH model.
    The State of Idaho and Idaho Department of Fish and Game suggested 
utilizing the Priority 1 subset of the HSM developed by Kinley and Apps 
(2007), connected by the MCS corridors with a score greater than or 
equal to 35, to identify critical habitat. We determined that the HSM 
Priority 1 areas were inadequate since combined with the suggested 
corridors, they included only the 63 percent of telemetry points and 39 
percent of HSM greater than or equal to 0.5. Also, as Kinley and Apps 
state (p. 24) the ``locations important for caribou conservation may 
not be entirely circumscribed by Priority 1, 2 and 3 areas''.
    Peer reviewers made a number of suggestions regarding the use of 
elevation in the delineation of critical habitat. Two peer reviewers 
suggested elevations above 5,000 ft (1,520 m) should be included, and 
one identified 4,500 ft (1,370 m) as being important for early winter 
habitat. The HSM scores, Wakkinen and Slone's corridors, and work by 
Freddy (1974, 1979) were also forwarded for consideration, with a 
suggestion that more recent data be incorporated into a new modeling 
effort. The Kinley and Apps (2007) analysis of telemetry data for 
defining seasonal cut-dates indicated a mean elevation of approximately 
5,500 ft (1,675 m) for the early-winter seasonal-habitat period, which 
represent the time of year when the southern Selkirk Mountains 
population of woodland caribou are typically found at the lowest 
elevation (Kinley and Apps 2007, pp. 7-8). The telemetry database 
utilized in their analysis indicates that approximately 88 percent of 
early-winter telemetry data occurred above 5,000 ft (1,520 m), with 
approximately 71 percent of points occurring above 5,500 ft (1,680 m)

[[Page 71073]]

(Wakkinen peer review 2012, p. 3; State of Idaho comment letter 2012, 
p. 8; Kootenai Tribe comment letter 2012, p. 8). Approximately 94 
percent of all the telemetry data (for all seasonal habitat periods) 
occurred above 5,000 ft (1,520 m) in elevation.
    Based on the Kinley and Apps (2007, entire) telemetry database 
analysis, and after considering all peer review and public comments and 
information received in response to the proposed critical habitat 
designation, we revised the critical habitat elevation boundaries from 
4,000 ft (1,120 m) in the proposed critical habitat rule to habitats at 
and above 5,000 ft (1,520 m) elevation in the final rule. We 
acknowledge one peer reviewer's comment recommending that the 
designation of critical habitat for the southern Selkirk Mountains 
population of woodland caribou be at 4,500 ft (1,370 m) elevation. 
However, the information we evaluated as well as comments received 
indicate that only habitats at 5,000 ft (1,520 m) in elevation and 
above are essential to caribou. Our revised designation of areas at and 
above 5,000 ft (1,520 m) also captures the ecotone described by Art 
Zack, USFS (pers comm. 2012; see Summary of Comments and 
Recommendations section), where the cedar/hemlock and subalpine fir 
habitat types meet or intergrade on the IPNF at approximately 5,100 ft 
(1,550 m); although where the ecotone break occurs is based on aspect, 
topography, landform, cold air drainage patterns, and local weather 
patterns. Similarly, the designation in our final rule includes the 
average elevational shifts in habitat use by caribou, by season, for 
the south Selkirk ecosystem (Kinley and Apps 2007, p.3). This 
elevational range of 5,496 ft (1,675 m) in November (early winter) to 
about 6,300 ft (1,920 m) in late January (late winter) was based on 
telemetry data collected from 1987-2004. Scott and Servheen (1984, p. 
30) also reported that in early winter the southern Selkirk Mountains 
population of woodland caribou sought out habitat types providing snow-
free foraging areas at elevations approximately 4,950 ft (1,509 m). 
After considering the best scientific data available, as required under 
section 4(B)(2) of the Act, we have determined that the areas described 
by the primary constituent elements and therefore the essential 
physical and biological features specific to the southern Selkirk 
Mountains population of woodland caribou above are essential to the 
conservation of the species.
    When determining proposed critical habitat boundaries, we made 
every effort to avoid including developed areas such as lands covered 
by buildings, pavement, and other structures because such lands lack 
PBFs for the southern Selkirk Mountains population of woodland caribou. 
The scale of the maps we prepared under the parameters for publication 
within the Code of Federal Regulations may not reflect the exclusion of 
such developed lands. Any such lands inadvertently left inside critical 
habitat boundaries shown on the maps of this final rule have been 
excluded by text in the rule and are not designated as critical 
habitat. Therefore, a Federal action involving these lands will not 
trigger section 7 consultation with respect to critical habitat and the 
requirement of no adverse modification, unless the specific action 
would affect the PBFs in the adjacent critical habitat.
    The critical habitat designation is defined by the map presented at 
the end of this document in the rule portion. We include more detailed 
information on the boundaries of the critical habitat designation in 
the preamble of this document. We will make the coordinates or plot 
points or both on which the map is based available to the public on 
http://www.regulations.gov at Docket No. FWS-R1-ES-2011-0096, on our 
Internet site http://www.fws.gov/idaho/SpeciesNews.htm, and at the 
field office responsible for the designation (see FOR FURTHER 
INFORMATION CONTACT above).
    We are designating as critical habitat lands that we have 
determined are occupied at the time of listing and contain sufficient 
PBFs to support life-history processes essential for the conservation 
of the southern Selkirk Mountains population of woodland caribou.
    According to Freddy (1974, p. 43), current and historical 
observations suggest seasonal movement of caribou into the United 
States most likely during October and November, with return movement 
into British Columbia from March through June. He also stated that from 
September 1971 through May 1972, there were several observations of 
caribou or tracks in the United States, especially in the east spur of 
the Selkirk Mountains (Freddy 1974, pp. 45-46). An early May 1983 
census of probable caribou habitat in British Columbia, Idaho, and 
Washington revealed a population of 26 animals, including 4 mature 
bulls, 3 immature bulls, 3 calves, 11 cows, and 5 animals that were 
either young bulls or cows (IDFG 1983, pers. comm.). A 1983-1984 
seasonal distribution study based on telemetry data from six collared 
caribou concluded that most activity occurred in drainages north of 
British Columbia Highway 3 (Scott and Servheen 1984, pp. 16-22). In 
that study, three adult cows, two mature bulls, and one immature bull, 
were tracked. Of these six caribou, the two mature bulls were collared 
with radio transmitters during October 1983 (i.e., data from the spring 
season was not available), the immature bull was illegally killed in 
the fall of 1983, and a radio collar on one of the adult cows stopped 
transmitting in the spring of 1984.
    Although this study does provide information on occupancy of 
caribou at the time of listing it does not provide an in-depth 
understanding of seasonal habitat use within this area at the time of 
listing. The telemetry data of this study are incomplete, as two of the 
six caribou collared were no longer transmitting location information, 
and there are no telemetry data from the majority of the population 
(i.e., the caribou that were not radio collared). Other than the 
location information obtained during the augmentation of the southern 
Selkirk Mountains population of woodland caribou during the 1980s and 
1990s, caribou census surveys conducted annually since the early 1990s 
have been limited to the winter season, when caribou and their tracks 
are most visible. As stated earlier, Freddy (1974, pp. 43, 45-46), 
suggested that current and historical use of habitat within the United 
States occurred throughout most of the year. Although we do not have 
conclusive data regarding current seasonal use patterns in the area 
being designated as critical habitat (because year-round surveys are 
not being conducted), the areas have at minimum been used during winter 
and other seasons historically, and are essential to the conservation 
of the southern Selkirk Mountains population of woodland caribou for 
these purposes.
    One unit was designated based on sufficient elements of PBFs being 
present to support the southern Selkirk Mountains population of 
woodland caribou life processes. Some areas within the unit contain all 
of the identified elements of the PBFs and support multiple life 
processes. Some areas within the unit contain only some elements of the 
PBFs necessary to support the southern Selkirk Mountains population of 
woodland caribou's particular use of that habitat.

Final Critical Habitat Designation

    We are designating one unit as critical habitat for the southern 
Selkirk Mountains population of woodland caribou. The critical habitat 
area described below constitutes our best assessment of areas that meet 
the definition of critical habitat for the southern Selkirk Mountains 
population

[[Page 71074]]

of woodland caribou. The Selkirk Mountains Critical Habitat Unit is 
located in Boundary County, Idaho, and Pend Oreille County, Washington. 
The approximate size and ownership of the Selkirk Mountains Critical 
Habitat Unit is identified in Table 1. This Unit was occupied at the 
time of emergency listing in 1983, and at the time of final listing in 
1984, and is essential to the conservation of the species.

     Table 3--Designated Critical Habitat for the Southern Selkirk Mountains Population of Woodland Caribou
   [Area estimates reflect all land within critical habitat unit boundaries, values are rounded to the nearest
                                                 whole numbers.]
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                      Land ownership by type and acres (hectares)
     Critical habitat by county      ---------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                           Federal            Private             State              Total
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                     SELKIRK MOUNTAINS CRITICAL HABITAT UNIT
                     Southern Selkirk Mountains Woodland Caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou)
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Boundary County, Idaho..............      6,029 (2,440)                  0                  0      6,029 (2,440)
Pend Oreille County, Washington.....     23,980 (9,705)                  0                  0     23,980 (9,705)
                                     ---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Unit Total......................    30,010 (12,145)                  0                  0    30,010 (12,145)
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Note: Totals may not sum due to rounding.

    We present a brief description of the Selkirk Mountains Critical 
Habitat Unit, and reasons why this Unit meets the definition of 
critical habitat for the southern Selkirk Mountains population of 
woodland caribou.

Selkirk Mountains Critical Habitat Unit

    The Selkirk Mountains Critical Habitat Unit consists of 30,010 ac 
(12,145 ha) in Boundary County, Idaho and Pend Oreille County, 
Washington. Lands within this unit are at 5,000 ft (1,520 m) and higher 
in elevation. These lands are under Federal ownership, within the 
Colville and Idaho Panhandle National Forests. The Selkirk Mountains 
Critical Habitat Unit was occupied at the time of both the emergency 
listing on January 14, 1983 (48 FR 1722), and the final listing in 1984 
(49 FR 7390; February 29, 1984), and is essential to the conservation 
of the species. This area also contains the PBFs essential to the 
conservation of the southern Selkirk Mountains population of woodland 
caribou and which may require special management considerations or 
protection. The primary land uses are forest management activities and 
recreational activities, which occur throughout the year. Recreational 
activities include, but are not limited to, snowmobiling, off-highway 
vehicle (OHV) use, backcountry skiing, and hunting. Special management 
considerations or protection needed within the unit are required to 
address habitat fragmentation of contiguous old growth forests due to 
forest practices and activities, wildfire, and disturbances such as 
roads and recreation.

Effects of Critical Habitat Designation

Section 7 Consultation

    Section 7(a)(2) of the Act requires Federal agencies, including the 
Service, to ensure that any action they fund, authorize, or carry out 
is not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of any endangered 
or threatened species, or result in the destruction or adverse 
modification of designated critical habitat of such species. In 
addition, section 7(a)(4) of the Act requires Federal agencies to 
confer with the Service on any action which is likely to jeopardize the 
continued existence of any species proposed to be listed under the Act 
or result in the destruction or adverse modification of proposed 
critical habitat.
    Decisions by the 5th and 9th Circuit Courts of Appeals have 
invalidated our regulatory definition of ``destruction or adverse 
modification'' (50 CFR 402.02) (see Gifford Pinchot Task Force v. U.S. 
Fish and Wildlife Service, 378 F. 3d 1059 (9th Cir. 2004) and Sierra 
Club v. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service et al., 245 F.3d 434, 442 (5th 
Cir. 2001)), and we do not rely on this regulatory definition when 
analyzing whether an action is likely to destroy or adversely modify 
critical habitat. Under the statutory provisions of the Act, we 
determine destruction or adverse modification on the basis of whether, 
with implementation of the proposed Federal action, the affected 
critical habitat would continue to serve its intended conservation role 
for the species.
    If a Federal action may affect a listed species or its critical 
habitat, the responsible Federal agency (action agency) must enter into 
consultation with us. Examples of actions that are subject to the 
section 7 consultation process are actions on State, tribal, local, or 
private lands that require a Federal permit (such as a permit from the 
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers under section 404 of the Clean Water Act 
(33 U.S.C. 1251 et seq.) or a permit from the Service under section 10 
of the Act) or that involve some other Federal action (such as funding 
from the Federal Highway Administration, Federal Aviation 
Administration, or the Federal Emergency Management Agency). Federal 
actions not affecting listed species or critical habitat, and actions 
on State, tribal, local, or private lands that are not federally funded 
or authorized, do not require section 7 consultation.
    As a result of section 7 consultation, we document compliance with 
the requirements of section 7(a)(2) through our issuance of:
    (1) A concurrence letter for Federal actions that may affect, but 
are not likely to adversely affect, listed species or critical habitat; 
or
    (2) A biological opinion for Federal actions that may affect, or 
are likely to adversely affect, listed species or critical habitat.
    When we issue a biological opinion concluding that a project is 
likely to jeopardize the continued existence of a listed species and/or 
destroy or adversely modify critical habitat, we provide reasonable and 
prudent alternatives to the project, if any are identifiable, that 
would avoid the likelihood of jeopardy and/or destruction or adverse 
modification of critical habitat. We define ``reasonable and prudent 
alternatives'' (at 50 CFR 402.02) as alternative actions identified 
during consultation that:
    (1) Can be implemented in a manner consistent with the intended 
purpose of the action,

[[Page 71075]]

    (2) Can be implemented consistent with the scope of the Federal 
agency's legal authority and jurisdiction,
    (3) Are economically and technologically feasible, and
    (4) Would, in the Director's opinion, avoid the likelihood of 
jeopardizing the continued existence of the listed species and/or avoid 
the likelihood of destroying or adversely modifying critical habitat.
    Reasonable and prudent alternatives can vary from slight project 
modifications to extensive redesign or relocation of the project. Costs 
associated with implementing a reasonable and prudent alternative are 
similarly variable.
    Regulations at 50 CFR 402.16 require Federal agencies to reinitiate 
consultation on previously reviewed actions in instances where we have 
listed a new species or subsequently designated critical habitat that 
may be affected and the Federal agency has retained discretionary 
involvement or control over the action (or the agency's discretionary 
involvement or control is authorized by law). Consequently, Federal 
agencies sometimes may need to request reinitiation of consultation 
with us on actions for which formal consultation has been completed, if 
those actions with discretionary involvement or control may affect 
subsequently listed species or designated critical habitat.

Application of the ``Adverse Modification'' Standard

    The key factor related to the adverse modification determination is 
whether, with implementation of the proposed Federal action, the 
affected critical habitat would continue to serve its intended 
conservation role for the species. Activities that may destroy or 
adversely modify critical habitat are those that alter the PBFs to an 
extent that appreciably reduces the conservation value of the critical 
habitat for the southern Selkirk Mountains population of woodland 
caribou. As discussed above, the role of critical habitat is to support 
life-history needs of the species and provide for the conservation of 
the species.
    Section 4(b)(8) of the Act requires us to briefly evaluate and 
describe, in any proposed or final regulation that designates critical 
habitat, activities involving a Federal action that may destroy or 
adversely modify such habitat, or that may be affected by such 
designation.
    We have identified no specific projects that would be of such scope 
and magnitude as to destroy or adversely modify critical habitat. 
However, activities that may affect critical habitat, when carried out, 
funded, or authorized by a Federal agency, should result in 
consultation for the southern Selkirk Mountains population of woodland 
caribou, and thus comply with the Act. These activities include, but 
are not limited to:
    (1) Actions that would reduce or remove mature old-growth 
vegetation (greater than 100-125 years old) within the cedar/hemlock 
zone and subalpine fir/Engelmann spruce zone at higher elevations 
stands (at or greater than 5,000 ft (1,520 m)), including the ecotone 
between these two forest habitats. Such activities could include, but 
are not limited to, forest stand thinning, timber harvest, and fuels 
treatment of forest stands. These activities could significantly reduce 
the abundance of arboreal lichen habitat, such that the landscape's 
ability to produce adequate densities of arboreal lichen to support 
persistent mountain caribou populations is at least temporarily 
diminished.
    (2) Actions that would cause permanent loss or conversion of old-
growth coniferous forest on a scale proportionate to the large 
landscape used by the southern Selkirk Mountains population of woodland 
caribou. Such activities could include, but are not limited to, 
recreational area developments, certain types of mining activities 
(e.g. open-pit mining), and road construction. Such activities could 
eliminate and fragment mountain caribou and arboreal lichen habitat.
    (3) Actions that would increase traffic volume and speed on roads 
within southern Selkirk Mountains population of woodland caribou 
critical habitat areas. Such activities could include, but are not 
limited to, transportation projects to upgrade roads or development, or 
development of a new tourist destination. These activities could reduce 
connectivity within the old-growth coniferous forest landscape for 
mountain caribou.
    (4) Actions that would increase recreation in southern Selkirk 
Mountains population of woodland caribou critical habitat. Such 
activities could include, but are not limited to, recreational 
developments that facilitate winter access into mountain caribou 
habitat units, or management activities that increase recreational 
activities within designated critical habitat throughout the year, such 
as snowmobiling, OHV use, and backcountry skiing. These activities have 
the potential to displace the southern Selkirk Mountains population of 
woodland caribou from suitable habitat or increase their susceptibility 
to predation. Displacement of caribou may result in: (1) Additional 
energy expenditure when they vacate an area to avoid disturbance, at a 
time when their energy reserves are already low; (2) an effective 
temporary loss of available habitat; and (3) potential long-term 
habitat loss if they abandon areas affected by chronic disturbance.
    The southern Selkirk Mountains population of woodland caribou 
strongly prefers old-growth forests to young forests in all seasons. In 
designated critical habitat, management actions that alter vegetation 
structure or condition in young forests over limited areas may not 
represent an adverse effect to caribou critical habitat. However, an 
adverse effect could result if these types of management activities 
reduce and fragment areas in a manner that creates a patchwork of 
different age classes or prevents young forests from achieving old-
growth habitat characteristics. For example, a commercial thinning or 
fuels reduction project in a young forest that may affect, but would 
not be likely to adversely affect critical habitat would not require 
formal consultation. However, a commercial thinning or fuels reduction 
project conducted within an old-growth forest that may affect, and 
would be likely to adversely affect, critical habitat would require 
formal consultation. As discussed in response to Comment 60, Federal 
agencies should examine the scale of their activities to determine 
whether direct or indirect alteration of habitat would occur to an 
extent that the value of critical habitat for the conservation of the 
mountain caribou would be appreciably diminished.
    Actions with no effect on the PCEs and physical and biological 
features of critical habitat for the southern Selkirk Mountains 
population of woodland caribou do not require section 7 consultation, 
although such actions may still have adverse or beneficial effects on 
the species itself that require consultation. Examples of these actions 
may include: routine trail and road maintenance (using native 
aggregate, blading of forest road surfaces, dust abatement), resource 
surveys such as timber stand exams, limited recreation on established 
trails and dispersed sites, and routine border security and 
surveillance. Although each of these activities would not be likely to 
result in adverse effects or adverse modifications to critical habitat 
for the southern Selkirk Mountains population of woodland caribou, they 
may require section 7 consultation to insure they are not likely to 
jeopardize the continued existence of the species.

[[Page 71076]]

    Section 9(a)(1) of the Act identifies prohibited activities with 
regard to endangered wildlife species listed pursuant to section 4 of 
the Act, which includes unlawful ``take.'' Section 3(19) of the Act 
defines ``take'' to mean to harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, 
kill, trap, capture, or collect, or to attempt to engage in any such 
conduct. Harm in the definition of ``take'' in the Act means an act 
which actually kills or injures fish or wildlife. Such an act may 
include significant habitat modification or degradation which actually 
kills or injures fish or wildlife by significantly impairing essential 
behavioral patterns, including breeding, spawning, rearing, migrating, 
feeding, or sheltering (46 FR 54750; November 4, 1981). Therefore, the 
southern Selkirk Mountains population of woodland caribou is protected 
by the Act both within and outside of designated critical habitat 
areas. Outside of designated critical habitat, the Service will 
continue to work with our Federal partners to conserve the southern 
Selkirk Mountains population of woodland caribou pursuant to sections 
7(a)(1) and 7(a)(2) of the Act.

Exemptions

Application of Section 4(a)(3) of the Act

    The Sikes Act Improvement Act of 1997 (Sikes Act) (16 U.S.C. 670a) 
required each military installation that includes land and water 
suitable for the conservation and management of natural resources to 
complete an integrated natural resources management plan (INRMP) by 
November 17, 2001. An INRMP integrates implementation of the military 
mission of the installation with stewardship of the natural resources 
found on the base. Each INRMP includes:
    (1) An assessment of the ecological needs on the installation, 
including the need to provide for the conservation of listed species;
    (2) A statement of goals and priorities;
    (3) A detailed description of management actions to be implemented 
to provide for these ecological needs; and
    (4) A monitoring and adaptive management plan.
    Among other things, each INRMP must, to the extent appropriate and 
applicable, provide for fish and wildlife management; fish and wildlife 
habitat enhancement or modification; wetland protection, enhancement, 
and restoration where necessary to support fish and wildlife; and 
enforcement of applicable natural resource laws.
    The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2004 (Pub. 
L. 108-136) amended the Act to limit areas eligible for designation as 
critical habitat. Specifically, section 4(a)(3)(B)(i) of the Act (16 
U.S.C. 1533(a)(3)(B)(i)) now provides: ``The Secretary shall not 
designate as critical habitat any lands or other geographical areas 
owned or controlled by the Department of Defense, or designated for its 
use, that are subject to an integrated natural resources management 
plan prepared under section 101 of the Sikes Act (16 U.S.C. 670a), if 
the Secretary determines in writing that such plan provides a benefit 
to the species for which critical habitat is proposed for 
designation.''
    There are no Department of Defense lands with a completed INRMP 
within the proposed critical habitat designation. Therefore, we are not 
exempting lands from this final designation of critical habitat for the 
southern Selkirk Mountains population of woodland caribou pursuant to 
section 4(a)(3)(B)(i) of the Act.

Exclusions

Application of Section 4(b)(2) of the Act

    Section 4(b)(2) of the Act states that the Secretary must designate 
and revise critical habitat on the basis of the best available 
scientific data after taking into consideration the economic impact, 
national security impact, and any other relevant impact of specifying 
any particular area as critical habitat. The Secretary may exclude an 
area from critical habitat if he determines that the benefits of such 
exclusion outweigh the benefits of specifying such area as part of the 
critical habitat, unless he determines, based on the best scientific 
data available, that the failure to designate such area as critical 
habitat will result in the extinction of the species. The statute on 
its face, as well as the legislative history, is clear that the 
Secretary has broad discretion regarding which factor(s) to use and how 
much weight to give to any factor in making that determination.
    Under section 4(b)(2) of the Act, the Secretary may exclude an area 
from designated critical habitat based on economic impacts, impacts on 
national security, or any other relevant impacts. In considering 
whether to exclude a particular area from the designation, we identify 
the benefits of including the area in the designation, identify the 
benefits of excluding the area from the designation, and evaluate 
whether the benefits of exclusion outweigh the benefits of inclusion. 
If the analysis indicates that the benefits of exclusion outweigh the 
benefits of inclusion, the Secretary may exercise his discretion to 
exclude the area only if such exclusion would not result in the 
extinction of the species.

Exclusions Based on Economic Impacts

    Under section 4(b)(2) of the Act, we consider the economic impacts 
of specifying any particular area as critical habitat. In order to 
consider economic impacts, we prepared a DEA of the proposed critical 
habitat designation and related factors (Industrial Economics, 2012). 
The draft economic analysis, dated May 2, 2012, was made available for 
public review from May 31 through July 2, 2012 (77 FR 32075). Following 
the close of the comment period, a final economic analysis (FEA), of 
the potential economic effects of the designation was developed, taking 
into consideration the public comments and new information.
    The intent of the FEA is to quantify the economic impacts of all 
potential conservation efforts for the southern Selkirk Mountains 
population of woodland caribou; some of these costs will likely be 
incurred regardless of whether we designate critical habitat 
(baseline). The economic impact of the final critical habitat 
designation is analyzed by comparing scenarios both ``with critical 
habitat'' and ``without critical habitat.'' The ``without critical 
habitat'' scenario represents the baseline for the analysis, 
considering protections already in place for the species (e.g., under 
the Federal listing and other Federal, State, and local regulations). 
The baseline, therefore, represents the costs incurred regardless of 
whether critical habitat is designated. The ``with critical habitat'' 
scenario describes the incremental impacts associated specifically with 
the designation of critical habitat for the species. The incremental 
conservation efforts and associated impacts are those not expected to 
occur absent the designation of critical habitat for the species. In 
other words, the incremental costs are those attributable solely to the 
designation of critical habitat above and beyond the baseline costs; 
these are the costs we consider in the final designation of critical 
habitat. The analysis looks retrospectively at baseline impacts 
incurred since the species was listed, and forecasts both baseline and 
incremental impacts likely to occur with the designation of critical 
habitat.
    The proposed rule that was published on November 30, 2011 (76 FR 
74018) identified approximately 375,562 acres (151,985 hectares) as 
critical habitat in Boundary and Bonner Counties in Idaho, and Pend 
Orielle County in

[[Page 71077]]

Washington. The proposed designation included 222,971 ac (90,233 ha) of 
Federal land, 65,218 ac (26,393 ha) of State land, and 15,379 ac (6,223 
ha) of private land in Bonner and Boundary Counties, Idaho, and 71,976 
ac (29,128 ha) of Federal land in Pend Orielle County, Washington. The 
final rule removes approximately 345,552 ac (139,603 ha) that do not 
meet the definition of critical habitat under section 3(5)(A) of the 
Act. The final rule designates approximately 30,010 acres (12,145 
hectares) of critical habitat on Federal lands within the Colville 
National Forest and Salmo-Priest Wilderness Area in Pend Oreille 
County, Washington, and the Idaho Panhandle (Kaniksu) National Forest 
in Boundary County, Idaho. The areas being designated are within the 
geographical area occupied by the species at the time of listing, are 
essential to the conservation of the species, and are managed by the 
U.S. Forest Service.
    Incremental impacts resulting from the designation of critical 
habitat for the southern Selkirk Mountains population of woodland 
caribou are limited to the additional effort required to address 
adverse modification in consultations undertaken by USFS in the IPNF 
and CNF. The FEA forecasts about one formal and informal section 7 
consultation annually over the next 20 years. The 20-year timeframe 
applied in the economic analysis is chosen as the Office of Management 
and Budget (OMB) indicates that a standard time period of analysis is 
10 to 20 years, and rarely exceeds 50 years. This analysis does not 
forecast additional project modifications associated with this 
designation. The reasonably foreseeable incremental impacts quantified 
in this analysis and attributable to the critical habitat designation 
are limited to the administrative costs of considering adverse 
modification during section 7 consultation with the Service. The 
potential incremental administrative costs resulting from the critical 
habitat designation are as follows:
    (1) Idaho Panhandle National Forest: $135,000 from 2012 to 2031, or 
$11,900 annually, discounted at seven percent.
    (2) Colville National Forest and Salmo-Priest Wilderness Area: 
$105,000 from 2012 to 2031, or $9,230 annually, discounted at seven 
percent.
    (3) Other Federal agencies: $6,400 from 2012 to 2031, or $564 
annually, discounted at seven percent (U.S. Environmental Protection 
Agency, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Customs and Border 
Protection).
    (4) Project Modifications: Due to extensive baseline protections of 
the caribou, no incremental project modifications are anticipated.
    The FEA also addresses how potential economic impacts are likely to 
be distributed, including an assessment of any local or regional 
impacts of habitat conservation and the potential effects of 
conservation activities on government agencies, private businesses, and 
individuals. The FEA measures lost economic efficiency primarily 
associated with timber harvests; fire, fire suppression, forest 
management practices; and recreational activities and development. 
Decision-makers can use this information to assess whether the effects 
of the designation might unduly burden a particular group or economic 
sector. Finally, the FEA looks retrospectively at costs that have been 
incurred since 1984 (the year of the final listing rule) (49 FR 7390; 
February 29, 1984), and considers costs that may occur in the 20 years 
following the designation of critical habitat, which was determined to 
be the appropriate period for analysis because limited planning 
information was available for most activities to forecast activity 
levels for projects beyond a 20-year timeframe.
    In summary, the incremental effects of the designated critical 
habitat for caribou are limited by the relatively large overlap the 
designation has with the existing habitat-based consultation framework 
for actions having already undergone section 7 consultations for the 
effects to the species under the jeopardy standard. The FEA did not 
identify any disproportionate incremental costs that are likely to 
result from the designation. Consequently, the Secretary is not 
exercising his discretion to exclude any areas from this designation of 
critical habitat for the southern Selkirk Mountains population of 
woodland caribou based on economic impacts.
    A copy of the FEA with supporting documents may be obtained by 
contacting the Idaho Fish and Wildlife Office (see ADDRESSES) or by 
downloading from the Internet at http://www.regulations.gov (search for 
docket number FWS-R1-ES-2011-0096).
Exclusions Based on National Security Impacts
    Under section 4(b)(2) of the Act, we consider whether there are 
lands owned or managed by the Department of Defense (DOD) where a 
national security impact might exist. In preparing this final rule, we 
have determined that the lands within the designation of critical 
habitat for the southern Selkirk Mountains population of woodland 
caribou are not owned or managed by the Department of Defense, and, 
therefore, we anticipate no impact on national security. U.S. Customs 
and Border Protection (CBP) is tasked with maintaining National 
Security interests along the nation's international borders. As such, 
CBP activities may qualify for exclusions under section 4(b)(2) of the 
Act. CBP has not identified specific areas within the designated 
critical habitat that should be considered for exclusion at this time. 
Since neither DOD nor CBP have identified areas within the designated 
critical habitat for exclusion, the Secretary is not exercising his 
discretion to exclude any areas from this final designation based on 
impacts on national security.
Exclusions Based on Other Relevant Impacts
    Under section 4(b)(2) of the Act, we consider any other relevant 
impacts, in addition to economic impacts and impacts to national 
security. We consider a number of factors including whether the 
landowners have developed any HCPs or other management plans for the 
area, or whether there are conservation partnerships that would be 
encouraged by designation of, or exclusion from, critical habitat. In 
addition, we look at any tribal issues, and consider the government-to-
government relationship of the United States with tribal entities. We 
also consider any social impacts that might occur because of the 
designation.
    In preparing this final rule, we have determined that there are 
currently no HCPs or other non-federal management plans for the 
southern Selkirk Mountains population of woodland caribou. Although the 
final designation does not include any tribal lands, it includes fish, 
wildlife, and other natural and cultural resources of the tribes, 
including rights reserved under treaty and other laws, policies, and 
orders. Similarly, the designation of critical habitat for the southern 
Selkirk Mountains population of woodland caribou does not establish any 
closures, or restrictions on use or access to areas designated as 
critical habitat, including those areas reserved by the tribes. We 
anticipate no impact on tribal lands, partnerships, or HCPs from this 
critical habitat designation. Accordingly, the Secretary is not 
exercising his discretion to exclude any areas from this final 
designation based on other relevant impacts.

[[Page 71078]]

Required Determinations

Regulatory Planning and Review--Executive Orders 12866 and 13563

    Executive Order 12866 provides that the Office of Information and 
Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) in the Office of Management and Budget will 
review all significant rules. The OIRA has determined that this rule is 
not significant.
    Executive Order 13563 reaffirms the principles of E.O. 12866 while 
calling for improvements in the nation's regulatory system to promote 
predictability, to reduce uncertainty, and to use the best, most 
innovative, and least burdensome tools for achieving regulatory ends. 
The executive order directs agencies to consider regulatory approaches 
that reduce burdens and maintain flexibility and freedom of choice for 
the public where these approaches are relevant, feasible, and 
consistent with regulatory objectives. Executive Order 13563 emphasizes 
further that regulations must be based on the best available science 
and that the rulemaking process must allow for public participation and 
an open exchange of ideas. We have developed this rule in a manner 
consistent with these requirements.

Regulatory Flexibility Act (5 U.S.C. 601 et seq.)

    Under the Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA; 5 U.S.C. 601 et seq.), 
as amended by the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act 
(SBREFA) of 1996 (5 U.S.C. 801 et seq.), whenever an agency must 
publish a notice of rulemaking for any proposed or final rule, it must 
prepare and make available for public comment a regulatory flexibility 
analysis that describes the effects of the rule on small entities 
(small businesses, small organizations, and small government 
jurisdictions). However, no regulatory flexibility analysis is required 
if the head of an agency certifies the rule will not have a significant 
economic impact on a substantial number of small entities. The SBREFA 
amended the RFA to require Federal agencies to provide a certification 
statement of the factual basis for certifying that the rule will not 
have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small 
entities. In this final rule, we are certifying that the critical 
habitat designation for the southern Selkirk Mountains population of 
woodland caribou will not have a significant economic impact on a 
substantial number of small entities. The following discussion explains 
our rationale.
    According to the Small Business Administration, small entities 
include small organizations, such as independent nonprofit 
organizations; small governmental jurisdictions, including school 
boards and city and town governments that serve fewer than 50,000 
residents; as well as small businesses. Small businesses include 
manufacturing and mining concerns with fewer than 500 employees, 
wholesale trade entities with fewer than 100 employees, retail and 
service businesses with less than $5 million in annual sales, general 
and heavy construction businesses with less than $27.5 million in 
annual business, special trade contractors doing less than $11.5 
million in annual business, and agricultural businesses with annual 
sales less than $750,000. To determine if potential economic impacts on 
these small entities are significant, we consider the types of 
activities that might trigger regulatory impacts under this rule, as 
well as the types of project modifications that may result. In general, 
the term ``significant economic impact'' is meant to apply to a typical 
small business firm's business operations.
    To determine if the rule could significantly affect a substantial 
number of small entities, we consider the number of small entities 
affected within particular types of economic activities (e.g., timber, 
recreation, and other activities). We apply the ``substantial number'' 
test individually to each industry to determine if certification is 
appropriate. However, the SBREFA does not explicitly define 
``substantial number'' or ``significant economic impact.'' 
Consequently, to assess whether a ``substantial number'' of small 
entities is affected by this designation, this analysis considers the 
relative number of small entities likely to be impacted in an area. In 
some circumstances, especially with critical habitat designations of 
limited extent, we may aggregate across all industries and consider 
whether the total number of small entities affected is substantial. In 
estimating the number of small entities potentially affected, we also 
consider whether their activities have any Federal involvement.
    Designation of critical habitat only affects activities authorized, 
funded, or carried out by Federal agencies. Some kinds of activities 
are unlikely to have any Federal involvement and so will not be 
affected by critical habitat designation. In areas where the species is 
present, Federal agencies already are required to consult with us under 
section 7 of the Act on activities they authorize, fund, or carry out 
that may affect the southern Selkirk Mountains population of woodland 
caribou. Federal agencies also must consult with us if their activities 
may affect critical habitat. Designation of critical habitat, 
therefore, could result in an additional economic impact on small 
entities due to the requirement to reinitiate consultation for ongoing 
Federal activities (see Application of the ``Adverse Modification 
Standard'' section).
    In our FEA of the critical habitat designation, we evaluated the 
potential economic effects on small business entities resulting from 
conservation actions related to the listing of the southern Selkirk 
Mountains population of woodland caribou and the designation of 
critical habitat. The analysis evaluates the potential for economic 
impacts related to: (1) Timber harvests; (2) Fire, fire suppression, 
and forest management practices; and (3) Recreational activities and 
development.
    However, as stated earlier, the final rule removes approximately 
345,552 ac (139,603 ha) that do not meet the definition of critical 
habitat under section 3(5)(A) of the Act (i.e., the areas removed are 
not essential to the conservation of the species). The final rule 
designates approximately 30,010 acres (12,145 hectares) of critical 
habitat on Federal lands within the Colville National Forest and Salmo-
Priest Wilderness Area in Pend Oreille County, Washington, and the 
Idaho Panhandle (Kaniksu) National Forest in Boundary County, Idaho. 
The areas being designated are within the geographical area occupied by 
the species at the time of listing, are essential to the conservation 
of the species, and managed by the U.S. Forest Service. As Federal 
agencies, the USFS, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection are not 
considered small entities. These Federal entities are expected to bear 
all of the incremental administrative costs of section 7 consultation 
and therefore, we do not anticipate small entities to be either 
directly regulated or significantly affected by this designation.
    In summary, we considered whether this designation would result in 
a significant economic effect on a substantial number of small 
entities. Based on the above reasoning and currently available 
information, we concluded that this rule would not result in a 
significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities. 
Therefore, we are certifying that the designation of critical habitat 
for the southern Selkirk Mountains population of woodland caribou will 
not have a significant economic impact on a

[[Page 71079]]

substantial number of small entities, and a regulatory flexibility 
analysis is not required.

Energy Supply, Distribution, or Use--Executive Order 13211

    Executive Order 13211 (Actions Concerning Regulations That 
Significantly Affect Energy Supply, Distribution, or Use) requires 
agencies to prepare Statements of Energy Effects when undertaking 
certain actions. OMB has provided guidance for implementing this 
Executive Order that outlines nine outcomes that may constitute ``a 
significant adverse effect'' when compared to not taking the regulatory 
action under consideration.
    The economic analysis finds that none of these criteria are 
relevant to this analysis. Thus, based on information in the FEA 
(Industrial Economics 2012, ES-8, Appendix A), energy-related impacts 
associated with the southern Selkirk Mountains population of woodland 
caribou conservation activities within critical habitat are not 
expected. As such, the designation of critical habitat is not expected 
to significantly affect energy supplies, distribution, or use. 
Therefore, this action is not a significant energy action, and no 
Statement of Energy Effects is required.

Unfunded Mandates Reform Act (2 U.S.C. 1501 et seq.)

    In accordance with the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act (2 U.S.C. 1501 
et seq.), we make the following findings:
    (1) This rule will not produce a Federal mandate. In general, a 
Federal mandate is a provision in legislation, statute, or regulation 
that would impose an enforceable duty upon State, local, or tribal 
governments, or the private sector, and includes both ``Federal 
intergovernmental mandates'' and ``Federal private sector mandates.'' 
These terms are defined in 2 U.S.C. 658(5)-(7). ``Federal 
intergovernmental mandate'' includes a regulation that ``would impose 
an enforceable duty upon State, local, or tribal governments'' with two 
exceptions. It excludes ``a condition of Federal assistance.'' It also 
excludes ``a duty arising from participation in a voluntary Federal 
program,'' unless the regulation ``relates to a then-existing Federal 
program under which $500,000,000 or more is provided annually to State, 
local, and tribal governments under entitlement authority,'' if the 
provision would ``increase the stringency of conditions of assistance'' 
or ``place caps upon, or otherwise decrease, the Federal Government's 
responsibility to provide funding,'' and the State, local, or tribal 
governments ``lack authority'' to adjust accordingly. At the time of 
enactment, these entitlement programs were: Medicaid; Aid to Families 
with Dependent Children work programs; Child Nutrition; Food Stamps; 
Social Services Block Grants; Vocational Rehabilitation State Grants; 
Foster Care, Adoption Assistance, and Independent Living; Family 
Support Welfare Services; and Child Support Enforcement. ``Federal 
private sector mandate'' includes a regulation that ``would impose an 
enforceable duty upon the private sector, except (i) a condition of 
Federal assistance or (ii) a duty arising from participation in a 
voluntary Federal program.''
    The designation of critical habitat does not impose a legally 
binding duty on non-Federal Government entities or private parties. 
Under the Act, the only regulatory effect is that Federal agencies must 
ensure that their actions do not destroy or adversely modify critical 
habitat under section 7. While non-Federal entities that receive 
Federal funding, assistance, or permits, or that otherwise require 
approval or authorization from a Federal agency for an action, may be 
indirectly impacted by the designation of critical habitat, the legally 
binding duty to avoid destruction or adverse modification of critical 
habitat rests squarely on the Federal agency. Furthermore, to the 
extent that non-Federal entities are indirectly impacted because they 
receive Federal assistance or participate in a voluntary Federal aid 
program, the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act would not apply, nor would 
critical habitat shift the costs of the large entitlement programs 
listed above onto State governments.
    (2) We do not believe that this rule will significantly or uniquely 
affect small governments because it will not produce a Federal mandate 
of $100 million or greater in any year, that is, it is not a 
``significant regulatory action'' under the Unfunded Mandates Reform 
Act. The designation of critical habitat for the southern Selkirk 
Mountains population of woodland caribou occurs primarily on Federal 
land, and imposes no obligations on State or local governments. 
Consequently, we do not believe that the critical habitat designation 
would significantly or uniquely affect small government entities. As 
such, a Small Government Agency Plan is not required.

Takings--Executive Order 12630

    In accordance with Executive Order 12630 (Government Actions and 
Interference with Constitutionally Protected Private Property Rights), 
we have analyzed the potential takings implications of designating 
critical habitat for the southern Selkirk Mountains population of 
woodland caribou in a takings implications assessment. The takings 
implications assessment concludes that this designation of critical 
habitat for the southern Selkirk Mountains population of woodland 
caribou does not pose significant takings implications for lands within 
or affected by the designation.

Federalism--Executive Order 13132

    In accordance with Executive Order 13132 (Federalism), this rule 
does not have significant Federalism effects. A federalism impact 
summary statement is not required. In keeping with Department of the 
Interior and Department of Commerce policy, we requested information 
from, and coordinated development of, this critical habitat designation 
with appropriate State resource agencies in Idaho. We received comments 
from the Idaho Office of Species Conservation that included comments 
from IDFG, IDL, and IDPR and have addressed them in the Summary of 
Comments and Recommendations section of the rule. The designation of 
critical habitat in areas currently occupied by the southern Selkirk 
Mountains population of woodland caribou imposes no additional 
restrictions to those currently in place and, therefore, has little 
incremental impact on State and local governments and their activities. 
The designation may have some benefit to these governments in that the 
areas that contain the PBFs essential to the conservation of the 
species are more clearly defined, and the elements of the features of 
the habitat necessary to the conservation of the species are 
specifically identified. This information does not alter where and what 
federally sponsored activities may occur. However, it may assist local 
governments in long-range planning (rather than having them wait for 
case-by-case section 7 consultations to occur).
    Where State and local governments require approval or authorization 
from a Federal agency for actions that may affect critical habitat, 
consultation under section 7(a)(2) would be required. While non-Federal 
entities that receive Federal funding, assistance, or permits, or that 
otherwise require approval or authorization from a Federal agency for 
an action, may be indirectly impacted by the designation of critical 
habitat, the legally binding duty to avoid destruction or adverse 
modification of

[[Page 71080]]

critical habitat rests squarely on the Federal agency.

Civil Justice Reform--Executive Order 12988

    In accordance with Executive Order 12988 (Civil Justice Reform), 
the Office of the Solicitor has determined that the rule does not 
unduly burden the judicial system and that it meets the applicable 
standards set forth in sections 3(a) and 3(b)(2) of the Order. We are 
designating critical habitat in accordance with the provisions of the 
Act. To assist the public in understanding the habitat needs of the 
species, the rule identifies the elements of physical or biological 
features essential to the conservation of the southern Selkirk 
Mountains population of woodland caribou. The designated areas of 
critical habitat are presented on a map, and the rule provides several 
options for the interested public to obtain more detailed location 
information, if desired.

Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 (44 U.S.C. 3501 et seq.)

    This rule does not contain any new collections of information that 
require approval by OMB under the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 (44 
U.S.C. 3501 et seq.). This rule will not impose recordkeeping or 
reporting requirements on State or local governments, individuals, 
businesses, or organizations. An agency may not conduct or sponsor, and 
a person is not required to respond to, a collection of information 
unless it displays a currently valid OMB control number.

National Environmental Policy Act (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.)

    It is our position that, outside the jurisdiction of the U.S. Court 
of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, we do not need to prepare 
environmental analyses pursuant to the National Environmental Policy 
Act (NEPA; 42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.) in connection with designating 
critical habitat under the Act. We published a notice outlining our 
reasons for this determination in the Federal Register on October 25, 
1983 (48 FR 49244). This position was upheld by the U.S. Court of 
Appeals for the Ninth Circuit (Douglas County v. Babbitt, 48 F.3d 1495 
(9th Cir. 1995), cert. denied 516 U.S. 1042 (1996)).

Government-to-Government Relationship With Tribes

    In accordance with the President's memorandum of April 29, 1994 
(Government-to-Government Relations with Native American Tribal 
Governments; 59 FR 22951), Executive Order 13175 (Consultation and 
Coordination With Indian Tribal Governments), and the Department of the 
Interior's manual at 512 DM 2, we readily acknowledge our 
responsibility to communicate meaningfully with recognized Federal 
tribes on a government-to-government basis. In accordance with 
Secretarial Order 3206 of June 5, 1997 (American Indian Tribal Rights, 
Federal--Tribal Trust Responsibilities, and the Endangered Species 
Act), we readily acknowledge our responsibilities to work directly with 
tribes in developing programs for healthy ecosystems, to acknowledge 
that tribal lands are not subject to the same controls as Federal 
public lands, to remain sensitive to Indian culture, and to make 
information available to tribes. We determined that there are no tribal 
lands occupied by the southern Selkirk Mountains population of woodland 
caribou at the time of listing that contain the features essential for 
conservation of the species, and no tribal lands unoccupied by the 
southern Selkirk Mountains population of woodland caribou that are 
essential for the conservation of the species. Therefore, we are not 
designating critical habitat for the southern Selkirk Mountains 
population of woodland caribou on tribal lands.

References Cited

    A complete list of all references cited is available on the 
Internet at http://www.regulations.gov and upon request from the Idaho 
Fish and Wildlife Office (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT).

Author(s)

    The primary authors of this rulemaking are the staff members of the 
Idaho Fish and Wildlife Office.

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 17

    Endangered and threatened species, Exports, Imports, Reporting and 
recordkeeping requirements, Transportation.

Regulation Promulgation

    Accordingly, we amend part 17, subchapter B of chapter I, title 50 
of the Code of Federal Regulations, as set forth below:

PART 17--[AMENDED]

0
1. The authority citation for part 17 continues to read as follows:

    Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1361-1407; 16 U.S.C. 1531-1544; 16 U.S.C. 
4201-4245; Pub. L. 99-625, 100 Stat. 3500; unless otherwise noted.


0
2. In Sec.  17.11(h), revise the entry for ``Caribou, woodland'' under 
``Mammals'' in the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife to read 
as follows:


Sec.  17.11  Endangered and threatened wildlife.

* * * * *
    (h) * * *

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                       Species                                                   Vertebrate
------------------------------------------------------                        population where                                    Critical     Special
                                                          Historic range       endangered or          Status       When listed    habitat       rules
           Common name              Scientific name                              threatened
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
MAMMALS.........................
 
                                                                      * * * * * * *
Caribou, woodland...............  Rangifer tarandus    Canada, U.S. (AK,    Canada               E                  128E, 136,     17.95(a)           NA
                                   caribou.             ID, ME, MI, MN,      (southeastern                                 143
                                                        MT, NH, VT, WA,      British Columbia
                                                        WI).                 bounded by the
                                                                             Canada-U.S.
                                                                             border, Columbia
                                                                             River, Kootenay
                                                                             River, Kootenay
                                                                             Lake, and Kootenai
                                                                             River), U.S. (ID,
                                                                             WA).
 
                                                                      * * * * * * *
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


[[Page 71081]]


0
3. In Sec.  17.95, amend paragraph (a) by adding an entry for 
``Woodland caribou, (Rangifer tarandus caribou), Southern Selkirk 
Mountains Population'' in the same alphabetical order that the species 
appears in the table at Sec.  17.11(h), to read as follows:


Sec.  17.95  Critical habitat--fish and wildlife.

    (a) Mammals.
* * * * *
Woodland Caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou) Southern Selkirk Mountains 
Population
    (1) A critical habitat unit is depicted for Boundary County, Idaho, 
and Pend Oreille County, Washington, on the map below.
    (2) Within this area, the primary constituent elements of the 
physical and biological features essential to the conservation of the 
southern Selkirk Mountains population of woodland caribou consist of 
five components:
    (i) Mature to old-growth western hemlock (Tsuga heterophylla)/
western red cedar (Thuja plicata) climax forest, and subalpine fir 
(Abies lasiocarpa)/Engelmann spruce (Picea engelmanni) climax forest at 
least 5,000 ft (1,520 m) in elevation; these habitats typically have 
26-50 percent or greater canopy closure.
    (ii) Ridge tops and high elevation basins that are generally 6,000 
ft (1,830 m) in elevation or higher, associated with mature to old 
stands of subalpine fir (Abies lasiocarpa)/Engelmann spruce (Picea 
engelmanni) climax forest, with relatively open canopy.
    (iii) Presence of arboreal hair lichens.
    (iv) High-elevation benches and shallow slopes, secondary stream 
bottoms, riparian areas, and seeps, and subalpine meadows with 
succulent forbs and grasses, flowering plants, horsetails, willow, 
huckleberry, dwarf birch, sedges and lichens. The southern Selkirk 
Mountains population of woodland caribou, including pregnant females, 
uses these areas for feeding during the spring and summer seasons.
    (v) Corridors/Transition zones that connect the habitats described 
above. If human activities occur, they are such that they do not impair 
the ability of caribou to use these areas.
    (3) Critical habitat does not include manmade structures (such as 
buildings, roads, and other paved areas) and the land on which they are 
located existing within the legal boundaries on December 28, 2012.
    (4) Critical habitat map unit. Data layers defining the map unit 
were created using a 5,000-ft (1,520-m) elevation layer derived from 
30m USGS DEM plus migration-corridor polygons, and units were then 
mapped using Universal Transverse Mercator (UTM) Zone 11N coordinates. 
The map in this entry establishes the boundaries of the critical 
habitat designation. The coordinates or plot points or both on which 
the map is based are available to the public at the field office 
Internet site (http://www.fws.gov/idaho), at http://www.regulations.gov 
at Docket No. FWS-R1-ES-2011-0096, and at the Service's Idaho Fish and 
Wildlife Office. You may obtain field office location information by 
contacting one of the Service regional offices, the addresses of which 
are listed at 50 CFR 2.2.
    (5) Note: Unit 1: Boundary County, Idaho, and Pend Oreille County, 
Washington. The map of the critical habitat unit follows:

[[Page 71082]]

[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TR28NO12.000

* * * * *

    Dated: November 14, 2012.
Rachel Jacobson,
Principal Deputy Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks.
[FR Doc. 2012-28512 Filed 11-27-12; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4310-55-P