oversight

Endangered Species: Caribou Recovery Program Has Achieved Modest Gains

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1999-05-13.

Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)

                  United States General Accounting Office

GAO               Report to the Honorable Larry E. Craig,
                  U.S. Senate



May 1999
                  ENDANGERED
                  SPECIES
                  Caribou Recovery
                  Program Has Achieved
                  Modest Gains




GAO/RCED-99-102
      United States
GAO   General Accounting Office
      Washington, D.C. 20548

      Resources, Community, and
      Economic Development Division

      B-282101

      May 13, 1999

      The Honorable Larry E. Craig
      United State Senate

      Dear Senator Craig:

      Since the 1960s, the last remaining woodland caribou population in the
      contiguous United States has inhabited the southern Selkirk Mountains.
      The southern Selkirk Mountains are located in northeastern Washington,
      northern Idaho, and southeastern British Columbia. As recently as the
      1950s, this population consisted of approximately 100 animals. However,
      by the early 1980s, it had dwindled to about 30. In 1983, the southern
      Selkirk Mountains population of woodland caribou was granted
      emergency protection under the Endangered Species Act. A final ruling of
      endangered status was published in February 1984. In 1985, the
      Department of the Interior’s Fish and Wildlife Service, the agency
      primarily responsible for carrying out the act for land species, approved
      the first recovery plan for the southern Selkirk Mountains woodland
      caribou. Since then, federal and state agencies in the United States and
      ministries in British Columbia have participated in a cooperative program
      to recover the caribou. Figure 1 depicts a woodland caribou.




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Figure 1: The Woodland Caribou




                                 Source: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.




                                 Concerned about the adequacy of the recovery program’s funding and
                                 accomplishments, you asked us to provide you with information on (1) the
                                 amount and source of funds expended on the woodland caribou recovery
                                 program; (2) the results of the program, including the outcome of efforts
                                 to augment the population and the impact of the recovery efforts on land
                                 use; and (3) the future direction of the recovery program. In addition, you
                                 asked us for information on the number and type of research reports that




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                   have been prepared on woodland caribou with Fish and Wildlife Service
                   funding. Details on these reports are provided in appendix I of this report.


                   The United States and British Columbia spent an estimated $4.7 million on
Results in Brief   efforts to restore the woodland caribou population from 1984 through
                   1998. In the United States, the Fish and Wildlife Service provided the
                   majority of these funds, spending about $3.2 million. The largest portion of
                   the Service’s expenditures, about $1.6 million, was in the form of grants to
                   Idaho and Washington. These funds were used primarily for increasing the
                   existing caribou population by transplanting other caribou (augmentation)
                   to the southern Selkirk Mountains and conducting follow-up monitoring
                   on the results of the augmentation effort. The Forest Service reported
                   expenditures of about $781,000 during this period for activities such as
                   habitat surveys, augmentation efforts, and monitoring. In addition, Idaho
                   and Washington reported spending about $240,000 and $419,000
                   respectively, for such activities as transplanting and monitoring caribou,
                   providing law enforcement, and developing public information and
                   education programs. British Columbia estimated that it spent about
                   $31,000 on caribou recovery efforts.

                   To date, the caribou recovery program has achieved modest gains. One of
                   its most significant achievements has been the maintenance of a core
                   population of woodland caribou centered in the southern Selkirk
                   Mountains near British Columbia’s Stagleap Provincial Park. In total, 103
                   caribou have been transplanted from separate populations in British
                   Columbia to augment the southern Selkirk population. Most recovery
                   program officials we contacted believe that without this augmentation, the
                   southern Selkirk population would probably no longer exist. However,
                   despite these efforts, the overall size of the southern Selkirk population
                   has increased by only about 18 animals, to a total of about 48. The
                   recovery program also has not achieved its goal of establishing two new
                   self-sustaining herds, one in Idaho and another in Washington. This limited
                   population increase is due to the high mortality among transplanted
                   caribou and the deaths of some resident (nontransplanted) caribou.
                   Although the cause of death is unknown for many caribou, researchers
                   currently believe that predation (killing), mainly by cougars, is the most
                   common cause. The recovery program has succeeded in mapping caribou
                   habitat, developing caribou habitat management guidelines, completing
                   research on various aspects of caribou ecology, developing information
                   and education programs, providing law enforcement, and monitoring the
                   caribou population. The impact on land use due specifically to caribou



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             recovery efforts has been relatively minor. Specifically, according to the
             Forest Service, which manages most of the land within the U.S. portion of
             the caribou recovery zone, some restrictions have been placed on timber
             harvesting and a small portion of the caribou habitat has been closed to
             snowmobiling. Forest Service officials noted that even if the caribou
             recovery efforts were terminated, many land-use restrictions, such as road
             closures, would remain in effect to protect, among other things,
             old-growth forests; watersheds; and other species, such as grizzly bears.

             Officials involved in planning future caribou recovery efforts agreed that,
             for the immediate future, the program’s highest priority is to maintain the
             core population of caribou centered around Stagleap Provincial Park. The
             range of this population includes northeastern Washington and northern
             Idaho, as well as southeastern British Columbia. However, the availability
             of caribou for further augmenting the population is uncertain. For
             example, no woodland caribou are available from British Columbia in
             1999. Another high-priority task will be to investigate the causes of and
             manage caribou mortality. Toward this end, the cooperating agencies
             recently initiated a study of cougar populations and their predation on
             caribou in the southern Selkirks. Other high-priority tasks include
             producing a consolidated map of caribou habitat, minimizing the impact of
             recreation on caribou in the recovery zone, and expanding information
             and education programs to obtain additional public support for caribou
             recovery. However, an overriding concern of officials involved in planning
             future recovery efforts is whether there will be adequate funding for the
             program. For example, in fiscal years 1997 and 1998, Washington and
             Idaho received only about 65 and 57 percent, respectively, of the grant
             funds they requested from the Fish and Wildlife Service.


             Historically, as figure 2 shows, woodland caribou were distributed
Background   throughout much of Canada and portions of the northern tier of the United
             States. There are two varieties, or ecotypes, of woodland
             caribou—mountain and northern. The two ecotypes are not genetically
             distinct and differ only in the use they make of their habitat and in their
             behavior. Currently, the only mountain caribou that regularly inhabit the
             contiguous United States is the population of the southern Selkirk
             Mountains. The range of these caribou is restricted to a relatively small
             area in southeastern British Columbia and extreme northeastern
             Washington and northern Idaho.




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  Figure 2: Present and Historical Range of Woodland Caribou in North America
  
  ,,,,
  ,,,,
  ,,,,
  , ,
      ,
      
      
             
              ,
              
              

           Historical range
           Present range


                                           Source: British Columbia Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks.




                                           While records suggest that caribou in this area were plentiful in the 19th
                                           century, the population had declined to about 100 animals by the 1950s. By
                                           the early 1980s, the population had further declined to about 30, and the
                                           woodland caribou had become one of the most critically endangered
                                           mammals in the United States.




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In 1971, U.S. and Canadian resource management agencies signed a
cooperative agreement to investigate and monitor the caribou. The
agencies included the Forest Service, the Washington Department of
Game, the Idaho Fish and Game Commission, the British Columbia Fish
and Wildlife Branch, the British Columbia Forest Service, and the
University of Idaho. The agreement resulted in the formation of the
International Mountain Caribou Steering Committee and the International
Mountain Caribou Technical Committee. The steering committee was
established to approve study plans and funding and to help set direction
for caribou recovery efforts and for the technical committee. The technical
committee was tasked with coordinating caribou management and
research studies and serving as a clearinghouse for information that
promotes management activities designed to reverse the decline of the
caribou population. The cooperative agreement produced a series of
population and habitat studies in the 1970s and 1980s. Both committees
are still active and are key participants in current caribou recovery efforts.

In 1977, the Idaho Fish and Game Commission designated the caribou as
an endangered species in the state. The Washington Game Commission
designated the caribou as endangered in 1982. In February 1984, the U.S.
Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) listed the southern Selkirk population of
woodland caribou as endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

Under ESA, once a species is identified as threatened or endangered the
responsible agency (in the case of the caribou, FWS) must generally
develop and implement a recovery plan.1 A recovery plan details the
specific tasks that are considered necessary to recover a species. The plan
can identify (but not obligate) other parties, such as federal, state and
private entities, as cooperating agencies. Implementing a recovery plan is
contingent upon appropriations, priorities, and other budgetary
constraints affecting the participants. A recovery plan may also be
modified to reflect changes in the status of a species, the completion of
recovery tasks, and new findings that reflect the latest available scientific
information.

In 1982, the International Mountain Caribou Technical Committee began
preparing a management plan for the woodland caribou. FWS adopted a
revised version of this document as the official recovery plan for the
caribou in 1985. The recovery plan identified the following as cooperating
agencies in the caribou recovery effort: FWS; the Fish and Wildlife Branch
of the British Columbia Ministry of Environment (currently, the Wildlife

1
 More information on the development of recovery plans is provided in app. II.



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Branch of the Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks); the British
Columbia Forest Service (part of the Ministry of Forests); the Forest
Service (Colville and Idaho Panhandle National Forests); the Idaho
Department of Fish and Game; the Washington Department of Game
(currently the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife); and the
University of Idaho.

In 1991, FWS appointed its own caribou recovery team to advise the agency
on caribou recovery efforts. The recovery team completed a revised
recovery plan in 1994. The revised plan identified all of the previously
identified entities as cooperators in the new plan, as well as Washington
State University and the Idaho Department of Lands. While these agencies
agreed to cooperate in carrying out the recovery plans, the resources to
implement the plans are controlled by congressional appropriations and
the agencies’ budgets and priorities.

FWS’ recovery plans for the southern Selkirk woodland caribou identified a
variety of management and research actions necessary for the species’
recovery. These included collecting information on and managing caribou
habitat, determining caribou population characteristics, maintaining the
population through various efforts to reduce caribou mortality, and
informing and involving the public and agency personnel about caribou
and caribou management. The 1985 recovery plan also called for assessing
the feasibility of augmenting the existing population by introducing
caribou transplanted from other herds. The consensus of the biological
community at the time was that augmentation was the only available
method that could reasonably be expected to achieve the population’s
recovery.

As figure 3 shows, a recovery zone that includes the general area used by
the caribou has been delineated. It covers about 2,200 square miles and
includes national forest, state, private, and Canadian lands. The recovery
zone encompasses the geographic area in the southern Selkirk Mountains
where caribou management efforts are now focused.




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Figure 3: The Southern Selkirk Woodland Caribou Recovery Zone




                                                                                                                 Kootenay
                                                                                                                   Lake
                                                                                Nelson




                                                                                          Highway 3

                                                                                           British Columbia
                                                            Pend Oreille Rive




                                                                                                                          er         iv
                                                                                                                          Kootenai R
                                                                                    Washington         Idaho
                                                           r




                                                                                                                              Bonners
                                                                                                                               Ferry


                                                                                                            Priest
                                                                                                            Lake


                                        Source: Idaho Department of Fish and Game.




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                    For more background on the history of woodland caribou in the southern
                    Selkirk Mountains and the history of recovery efforts, see appendix II.


                    From 1984, when woodland caribou were listed as endangered under ESA,
An Estimated $4.7   through 1998, federal and state agencies in the United States and British
Million Has Been    Columbia’s Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks spent an estimated
Spent for Caribou   $4.7 million on efforts to recover the southern Selkirk population. Federal
                    expenditures are estimated at about $4 million and include primarily those
Recovery            of FWS and the Forest Service and, to a much lesser extent, those of the
                    Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management and the
                    Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.
                    Idaho and Washington reported expenditures of about $240,000 and
                    $419,000, respectively. Finally, British Columbia’s Ministry of
                    Environment, Lands and Parks reported estimated expenditures of about
                    $31,000. As figure 4 shows, most of the caribou recovery expenditures
                    came from the U.S. government. However, it should be noted that the
                    estimated expenditures for British Columbia include only the salary
                    expenses of staff who participated in augmentation activities and costs
                    related to a study of cougar predation on caribou. The British Columbia
                    estimates do not include the direct and indirect value (expressed in
                    monetary terms) of caribou that the province donated to the recovery
                    effort and other recovery-related activities for which no expenditure
                    records were available.




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Figure 4: Sources of Funding for
Caribou Recovery Efforts, 1984-98
                                                                                            0.7%
                                                                                            British Columbia ($.03)



                                                                14.1% •                     State ($.66)




                                                85.2%
                                                   •




                                                                                            Federal ($3.98)



                                    Note: Percentages are rounded to the nearest tenth of a percent. Dollars are in millions rounded
                                    to two decimal places.

                                    Source: GAO’s analysis of reported data.




FWS’ Expenditures                   FWS estimated that its expenditures on the woodland caribou recovery
                                    program totaled about $3.2 million. The largest category of FWS’
                                    expenditures, about $1.6 million,2 was the federal share of the ESA Section
                                    6 grants provided to Idaho and Washington for recovery activities. States
                                    that have active programs for the conservation of species protected under
                                    ESA and cooperative agreements with FWS may receive Section 6 grants to
                                    fund their recovery efforts. The grants provided to Idaho and Washington
                                    specify a federal cost share of 90 percent and a state share of 10 percent.
                                    The Idaho Department of Fish and Game and the Washington Department
                                    of Fish and Wildlife performed the recovery work using the grants
                                    primarily to fund activities related to augmenting the existing southern
                                    Selkirk population, including monitoring the distribution, movement, and
                                    survival of the transplanted caribou. Other recovery activities funded by

                                    2
                                     This figure represents the total federal share of Section 6 grant obligations from 1984 through the end
                                    of fiscal year 1998. The actual expenditures as of that date were about $1.5 million. In addition, the
                                    amounts for five grants provided to Idaho were adjusted because they are multispecies ecosystem
                                    grants and only about 35 percent of the grant funds related to caribou recovery.



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these grants include developing a census technique for counting the
caribou and performing the census, conducted annually since 1991.

In addition to Section 6 grants, Idaho received grants administered by FWS
under the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act, commonly referred to as
the Pittman-Robertson Act. This act provides federal aid to states for the
management and restoration of wildlife. The estimated federal funding for
caribou under these grants, which specify a federal cost share of
75 percent and a state share of 25 percent, totaled about $47,000.3 The
work performed under these grants included research on caribou ecology
and assistance in developing caribou management plans.

FWS also spent about $924,000 for research on woodland caribou.
Specifically, the National Ecology Research Center conducted a series of
research projects over a 9-year period that focused primarily on the
caribou’s early winter habitat and diet but also included research on such
topics as caribou genetics and late winter caribou foraging ecology.4
Additional information on this research is provided in appendix I, which
contains a summary of reports that were based, in whole or in part, on this
research.

Finally, FWS’ remaining expenditures, approximately $600,000, included
general recovery funding and funding for law enforcement efforts. General
recovery funding covers the salary, travel, and office expenses of FWS staff
working on caribou recovery. For example, under this category, FWS
funded the preparation of a revised recovery plan and of an augmentation
plan, staff salaries associated with participation in augmentation efforts,
and the costs of organizing and participating in caribou recovery team
meetings.

We used estimated expenditure information in this report for a number of
reasons. Specifically, FWS does not generally maintain complete records of
its ESA expenditures on a species-by-species basis. Instead, FWS maintains
its expenditure records by ESA funding categories, such as listing,
recovery, consultation, and law enforcement. Accordingly, FWS’

3
 This figure represents the estimated federal expenditures under two Pittman-Robertson grants that
fell within the time frame for our review. The period covered by these grants was from July 1983
through June 1985.
4
 This research was initiated at the Ecology Branch of FWS’ Denver Wildlife Research Center in 1984.
The Ecology Branch then joined FWS’ Western Energy and Land Use Team, which later became part of
the National Ecology Research Center. In 1993, the National Ecology Research Center and other
organizations (or portions of organizations) joined to form the National Biological Survey. This
organization was renamed the National Biological Service in 1995 and was merged into the U.S.
Geological Survey in 1996. FWS has not funded caribou research since 1992.



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                   expenditure information is based on the best available data but includes
                   some estimated expenditures, and some data are missing. For example, for
                   the period from 1984 through 1988, FWS’ expenditure estimate is primarily
                   limited to research and Section 6 grants. (FWS officials noted that records
                   on additional expenditures were not required until the passage of the 1988
                   amendments to ESA). Therefore, the expenditure estimate for these years is
                   conservative. In other years, the best available information on
                   caribou-related expenditures, according to FWS, was a combined total that
                   included some funding categories that are not specifically related to
                   recovery efforts. However, FWS officials believe the reported expenditure
                   information presents a reasonably accurate estimate of its expenditures on
                   woodland caribou recovery efforts.


Forest Service’s   The Forest Service estimated that it spent about $781,000 on caribou
Expenditures       recovery efforts from 1984 through 1998. The largest identifiable
                   expenditure the Forest Service reported, totaling about $60,000, was for
                   surveying and analyzing caribou habitat. However, some of this habitat
                   work also related to the grizzly bear. Other Forest Service funds were
                   spent for augmentation activities, mapping caribou habitat, monitoring the
                   caribou population, purchasing radio collars for an investigation of cougar
                   predation on caribou, funding graduate student research on caribou, and
                   costs associated with attending caribou recovery team and technical
                   committee meetings. The Forest Service’s expenditure estimate also
                   includes the indirect costs of implementing caribou-related tasks and of
                   implementing threatened and endangered species program activities that
                   benefited both the caribou and other species. Indirect costs include such
                   items as the staff time spent designing timber sales to prevent adverse
                   effects on caribou, considering the effects of other proposed land
                   management activities on caribou, developing land and resource
                   management plans to conserve caribou and their habitat, and coordinating
                   with states or other agencies on caribou habitat management.

                   Like FWS, the Forest Service does not generally maintain complete
                   expenditure records on a species-by-species basis. As a result, the Forest
                   Service’s expenditure data include estimates. Also, the Forest Service did
                   not have complete records of its expenditures on caribou recovery efforts
                   for the entire 15-year period covered by our review. For example, for 1984
                   through 1988, the only available information concerned those
                   expenditures that could be identified by the Idaho Panhandle National
                   Forest and did not include expenditures by the Colville National Forest or
                   Forest Service regional offices. Accordingly, the estimates for this period



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                           are conservative. According to the Forest Service, for 1989 through 1997,
                           its expenditure estimates are more complete and include indirect costs as
                           detailed in the preceding paragraph. For fiscal year 1998, the estimate
                           includes only those expenditures that could be attributed directly to
                           caribou recovery efforts by the Idaho Panhandle and Colville National
                           Forests. As of February 1999, the Forest Service was compiling additional
                           1998 cost data; however, these data were not available when we
                           completed our review. As a result, the cost estimate for fiscal year 1998
                           may be also conservative.


Other Federal Agencies’    The Bureau of Land Management and the Department of Agriculture’s
Expenditures               Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service also reported expenditures for
                           caribou recovery efforts. The Bureau of Land Management estimated that
                           it spent about $10,000 for monitoring the caribou population while the
                           Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service estimated that it spent $720
                           that was related to checking quarantined caribou for disease before they
                           were transplanted to the United States.


Idaho’s and Washington’s   Idaho and Washington estimated their expenditures for caribou recovery
Expenditures               work at about $240,000 and $419,000, respectively. As noted, both of these
                           states received Section 6 grants to fund the recovery work. In addition,
                           Idaho received Pittman-Robertson grants. Accordingly, Idaho’s and
                           Washington’s expenditure estimates include their contributions of funds
                           required by these grants. Both states noted, however, that they have spent
                           funds in excess of their contributions to these grants.

                           Idaho’s expenditures supported law enforcement work; the supervision of
                           staff working under Section 6 grants; and the administration of Section 6
                           grants, including the development of grant proposals, the development of
                           public information and education programs, and the review of
                           caribou-related reports. Washington’s estimated expenditures went for
                           such activities as preparing an augmentation plan; mapping caribou
                           habitat features using Geographic Information System technology;
                           providing law enforcement; providing information and education,
                           including establishing a caribou-related Internet site; performing tasks
                           related to transplanting and monitoring caribou; and attending various
                           meetings on caribou.

                           There are some limitations to the expenditure estimates provided by the
                           states. Specifically, the states did not have complete records of their



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                     expenditures for all 15 years covered in our review. Accordingly, the
                     estimates of the states’ expenditures are based on the best available
                     information. For example, during the period from 1986 through 1988,
                     Idaho’s estimated expenditures are limited to the state’s share of the
                     Section 6 grant in effect then and are, therefore, conservative.5 This
                     limitation is due to a lack of historical program expenditure records.
                     Additionally, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s estimated
                     expenditures for the period from 1984 through 1992 are limited mainly to
                     the salary and travel costs incurred by the biologist with lead
                     responsibility for the agency’s caribou recovery efforts. Moreover, for
                     1998, Washington’s expenditures are limited to the state’s share of the
                     Section 6 grant that was then in effect because a total expenditure
                     estimate for the year was not available for our review. Accordingly, for
                     these time periods, Washington’s expenditure estimates are also
                     conservative.


British Columbia’s   According to the Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks, British
Expenditures         Columbia’s expenditures were primarily related to efforts to augment the
                     southern Selkirk caribou population with caribou from other parts of
                     British Columbia and to study cougar predation on caribou. The Ministry
                     estimated these expenditures to be about $31,000.6 The
                     augmentation-related expenditures (about $26,500) represent the salaries
                     of staff who participated in planning and conducting the transplant
                     operations, including preparing the plans and assisting in locating and
                     capturing the caribou for transplant. The remaining expenditures were for
                     the purchase of radio collars and associated costs for the study of cougar
                     predation on caribou. The Ministry characterized its estimated
                     expenditures as conservative because they do not cover such costs as the
                     salaries and travel expenses for staff from the Ministry of Environment,
                     Lands and Parks and the Ministry of Forests who attended recovery team,
                     steering committee, or technical committee meetings. The estimate also
                     does not include the salaries of staff from the ministries who were
                     involved in planning timber harvests so as to protect caribou habitat.
                     According to the Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks, since the
                     ministries do not keep records of such expenditures on a
                     species-by-species basis, no information on these expenditures was
                     available. The Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks also noted that


                     5
                      Idaho’s expenditures for these years were reported by the state’s fiscal year, which runs from July
                     through June.
                     6
                      This estimate is based on a Mar. 16, 1999, average exchange rate of 65.4 U.S. cents per Canadian
                     dollar.



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                          British Columbia would likely have incurred the costs for planning timber
                          harvests even if there were no U.S. caribou recovery program, since
                          British Columbia, including the Ministry of Forests and private industry, is
                          taking actions to protect the habitat of the southern Selkirk caribou on its
                          own behalf.


                          FWS’  recovery plans for the southern Selkirk Mountains caribou called for
Recovery Program          taking a variety of actions to assist the declining population. One of the
Has Achieved Modest       most significant has been the transplanting of over 100 caribou from other
Gains                     parts of British Columbia to the southern Selkirk Mountains area. Most
                          recovery program officials we spoke to believe that this action is probably
                          responsible for the continued existence of a caribou population in the
                          southern Selkirk Mountains. However, because many transplanted and
                          some resident caribou have died, the net effect of the augmentation effort
                          has been a relatively small increase in the overall population, from about
                          30 animals when the recovery effort started in 1984 to about 48 animals
                          today. FWS noted that the mortality among the southern Selkirk transplants
                          is in line with long-term recovery objectives established by the Canadian
                          Wildlife Service for caribou in other areas. Furthermore, FWS believes that
                          the information gained from the augmentation effort is essential in
                          sustaining the recovery and is consistent with “adaptive management.”7
                          The current population consists of both transplanted and resident caribou
                          and moves freely across the borders of Washington, Idaho, and British
                          Columbia.

                          Although the recovery program has not succeeded in establishing two new
                          self-sustaining herds in the United States as planned, it has mapped
                          caribou habitat in the recovery zone, developed habitat management
                          guidelines, and completed research on certain aspects of caribou ecology.
                          Furthermore, according to recovery program officials, restrictions on land
                          use due specifically to the caribou have been relatively minor. Other
                          restrictions, such as road closures on Forest Service lands to protect
                          old-growth timber reserves, watersheds, and grizzly bear, would remain
                          even if there were no recovery plan for the caribou.


Results of Augmentation   FWS’ initial caribou recovery plan, approved in April 1985, called for an
Efforts                   assessment of the use of augmentation as a possible method of increasing
                          the southern Selkirk caribou population. At the time, the existing

                          7
                           The concept of adaptive management is the basic premise for recovery plans and conservation
                          strategies. It recognizes the need for flexibility and therefore allows FWS to modify the caribou
                          recovery program if monitoring and/or research results indicate a need for change.



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population occupied the international border area of extreme northeastern
Washington, northern Idaho, and southeastern British Columbia. Later that
year, the Forest Service issued a decision notice that called for augmenting
the existing population in accordance with an augmentation plan that had
been prepared by representatives of the cooperating agencies. The
augmentation plan identified potential caribou capture locations in British
Columbia and evaluated potential release sites in Idaho and Washington.
Ball Creek in northern Idaho was selected as the release site because of
such factors as the condition and availability of suitable habitat for a new
caribou herd. In March 1987, 24 caribou were transplanted from British
Columbia to Ball Creek. A nearly identical operation provided 24
additional caribou the following year. Caribou were not available for
transplant in 1989, but 12 more caribou were transplanted to Ball Creek in
March 1990. All transplanted animals were fitted with radio collars and
have been monitored extensively to determine their distribution and
movement, as well as their reproduction, mortality (including the causes
when possible), and survival rates. Through these transplants, a second
caribou herd was established in the southern Selkirk Mountains, although
it has decreased in size over time and is therefore not currently
self-sustaining.

In March 1994, FWS issued a revised recovery plan. The revised plan called
for, among other things, establishing a third self-sustaining herd of
caribou, this time in Washington. Additional transplants were needed in
Washington to reduce the risk of losing caribou to a catastrophic event
such as a large fire, and to improve the distribution of caribou, increase
the size of the population, and further enhance the probability of recovery.
After a second augmentation plan was completed and approved, in April
1996, 19 caribou from British Columbia were released in the Sullivan Lake
area of the Colville National Forest in Washington. An additional 13
caribou were transplanted to the same general area in March 1997. Finally,
in March 1998, 11 more caribou were transplanted to the southern Selkirk
Mountains. However, because previously transplanted animals moved
back and forth between British Columbia and the United States, the 1998
transplants were released just north of the U.S.-Canadian border at
Kootenay Pass in British Columbia.

According to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, the
Canadian release site had several advantages. Specifically, it decreased
transport-driving time and thereby reduced stress on the caribou; it placed
the caribou directly in a late winter feeding site; and it reduced the
project’s costs, since roads near the release site did not have to be plowed.



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An official from British Columbia’s Ministry of Environment, Lands and
Parks noted that using the Kootenay Pass release site also eliminated the
need for a costly and dangerous quarantine period and increased the
likelihood of the transplants’ encountering other caribou and taking up
residence in that area rather than dispersing. Researchers had also noticed
by this time that while the caribou transplanted during the 2 prior years
exhibited considerable movement, they tended to congregate in the
Stagleap Provincial Park area, just north of the Canadian border. The
transplants released in British Columbia followed the same pattern. Within
2 weeks of their release near Kootenay Pass, all the animals were located
within the Idaho portion of the recovery zone. These caribou continued to
move and currently tend to congregate with the core population centered
around the Stagleap Provincial Park area.

All of the Washington and British Columbia transplants were also fitted
with radio collars, and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife
has monitored their movements, survival, and causes of death. Figure 5
shows the locations of the four release sites in the recovery zone.




Page 17                               GAO/RCED-99-102 Caribou Recovery Program
                                     B-282101




Figure 5: Caribou Release Sites in
Idaho, Washington, and British
Columbia




                                                Nelson




                                                                     Stagleap
                                                                  Provincial Park

                                                                          Kootenay Pass                  British Columbia
                                      Washington                                                          Idaho




                                      Sullivan Lake


                                                                                                        Ball Creek




                                                                                           Priest
                                                                                           Lake




                                         Caribou release site



                                     Source: Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.




                                     Page 18                                          GAO/RCED-99-102 Caribou Recovery Program
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Through the augmentation efforts, 103 caribou were transplanted from
British Columbia to the southern Selkirk Mountains—60 in Idaho, 32 in
Washington, and 11 in British Columbia. As of October 1998, 59 of the 103
transplanted caribou had died (38 of the Idaho transplants and 21 of the
Washington transplants). Of the remaining 44 transplanted caribou, 23 are
alive (1 from Idaho and 22 from Washington/British Columbia) and the
status of the 21 others is unknown, primarily because their radio collars
are lost or have failed. Most recovery program officials we contacted
believe that the augmentation efforts have probably been responsible for
maintaining a core population of woodland caribou in the southern Selkirk
Mountains. However, an official from the Idaho Department of Fish and
Game said that he is not convinced that the caribou population would no
longer exist without augmentation. He stated that a population of 25 to 30
animals around Stagleap Provincial Park has survived for some time and
remains the core population. However, he added that the population
probably would not have grown or expanded without intervention.

Because so many transplanted and some resident caribou have died, the
increase in the overall size of the southern Selkirk population is relatively
small. Specifically, when the population was listed under ESA, it was
estimated to include about 30 caribou. In 1991, the year following the last
of the Idaho transplants, the population numbered about 47 caribou. The
population reached its highest level under the recovery effort in 1993,
when it totaled about 51 individuals. However, it has declined since to
about 48 individuals, even with the addition of the 43 caribou transplanted
to Washington and British Columbia. FWS stated that it would be
inappropriate to judge the success or failure of a reintroduction program
on the basis of only 103 individuals transplanted over a 12-year period.
According to FWS, mortality of 57 percent (59 confirmed deaths out of a
total of 103 transplanted caribou) would not be considered excessive,
especially for these types of animals. FWS noted that this mortality is in line
with long-term recovery objectives established by the Canadian Wildlife
Service in its recovery plan for a population of woodland caribou located
within the boundaries of the Gaspesie Conservation Park in Canada. For
example, the long-term goal of this plan was to maintain a survival rate of
50 percent for calves aged 6 months to 2 years. Furthermore, FWS stated
that the information gained from the augmentation effort could be used to
conduct studies, pinpoint problems, and make adjustments in recovery
actions. According to FWS, “adaptive management” is an ongoing,
essential effort in sustaining the recovery of the woodland caribou and of
many other listed species and typifies why recovery is frequently a slow,




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incremental process that is modified as monitoring and research indicate a
need for change.

In commenting on our report, the British Columbia Ministry of
Environment, Lands and Parks stated that, in general, the Ministry
considers annual adult caribou mortality rates in excess of 15 percent to
be high. The Ministry noted that recent estimates of adult mortality based
on data from radio-collared caribou suggest that the annual mortality rate
is even higher. This is of significant concern to the Ministry, which stated
that identifying and addressing the cause of this high mortality remains
very important for ensuring the long-term recovery of caribou in the
southern Selkirk Mountains.

The cause of death is not known for many southern Selkirk caribou,
primarily because by the time carcasses are located and examined, too
little remains to make an accurate determination. However, predation,
mainly by cougars, is the most common known cause of death. Natural
causes, poaching or hunting, and accidental falls are other known causes.
Some recovery program officials cautioned, however, that the primary
cause of the decline in the southern Selkirk caribou population is currently
unknown and it is important not to designate predation as the ultimate
reason. For example, these officials noted that marginal habitat may be the
major problem.

Augmentation efforts have not succeeded in establishing two additional
self-sustaining herds in the United States as planned. Some of the Idaho
transplants remained near the release site and established a small herd
that is centered around Two Mouth Lakes, Idaho. However, the size of this
herd has declined steadily over time—from about 26 caribou in 1991 to 5
caribou in 1999. The remaining Idaho transplants have died, left the
southern Selkirk Mountains, or congregated with the core population
centered around Stagleap Provincial Park. The Washington transplants
have moved throughout the recovery zone but have also tended to
congregate with the core population. In October 1998, the Washington
Department of Fish and Wildlife issued a progress report on its
augmentation efforts. The report stated that instead of transplanting 60 or
more caribou during the first 3 years of the project as planned, the
Department was able to transplant only 43 caribou. The primary reason for
this shortfall was concern about straining the source populations in British
Columbia. The report indicated that transplanting only a limited number of
animals might have diminished the success of the augmentation effort.




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Other Recovery Program     In addition to the augmentation efforts, FWS’ recovery plans included a
Efforts                    variety of other tasks. Generally, these tasks involved such activities as
                           gathering information on and managing caribou habitat, conducting
                           research on characteristics of the caribou population, endeavoring to
                           reduce caribou mortality, and informing and involving the public and
                           agency personnel about caribou and caribou management. Further
                           information on other recovery program tasks and accomplishments
                           appears in appendix III.


Program’s Limited Impact   According to recovery program officials, the impact on land use due
on Land Use                specifically to caribou recovery efforts has been relatively minor.
                           Specifically, some restrictions have been placed on timber harvesting
                           within the recovery zone, and a small portion of the recovery zone has
                           been closed to snowmobiling. Forest Service officials noted that even if
                           the caribou recovery efforts were terminated, many land-use restrictions
                           would remain in effect to protect, among other things, old-growth timber
                           reserves; watersheds; and other species, such as grizzly bears.

                           When considering the southern Selkirk caribou for listing under ESA, FWS
                           identified improperly designed timber harvesting as a threat to the
                           population. For example, timber harvesting alters caribou habitat and
                           creates additional human access to habitat, which can increase the
                           potential for mortality. Timber cutting can eliminate escape cover,
                           migration corridors, and the ability of the habitat to produce lichens—a
                           major source of nutrition for the caribou. As a result of the caribou
                           recovery effort, some types and methods of timber harvesting have been
                           restricted or modified on lands administered by the Forest Service.
                           According to Forest Service officials, while caribou habitat management
                           guidelines do not prohibit timber harvesting in the recovery zone, they do
                           affect the amount and type of timber that can be harvested within
                           important caribou habitat. For example, to protect or promote the
                           long-term improvement of caribou habitat, commercial operations to thin
                           forests are designed from the outset to develop habitat with high canopy
                           cover or higher levels of lichen production.

                           Besides imposing some restrictions on timber harvesting, the Forest
                           Service has closed about 25 square miles of the 2,200-square-mile recovery
                           zone to snowmobiling specifically to protect the caribou. Snowmobiling
                           can harm caribou and their habitat either by directly harassing the animals
                           or by disturbing the habitat to the extent that it becomes unacceptable.
                           The closure was instituted in 1994, after the caribou herd was twice



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                         displaced by snowmobiles. Forest Service officials also stated that no
                         Forest Service roads have been closed specifically to protect the caribou.
                         However, because the caribou recovery area overlaps with the Selkirk
                         grizzly bear recovery area, the majority of the road-use restrictions have
                         been put in place primarily to provide security and core habitat for bear.
                         Forest Service officials noted that these road closures and restrictions also
                         benefit caribou and other wildlife species.

                         Forest Service officials noted that even if the recovery efforts for caribou
                         were terminated, many land-use restrictions would remain in the recovery
                         area. These restrictions include land management objectives for the
                         protection and management of other species, such as grizzly bear and their
                         habitat, and of other areas, including the Salmo-Priest Wilderness area, the
                         proposed Upper Priest Wild and Scenic River, roadless areas, and
                         unsuitable timberland areas. The recovery area is also managed for the
                         protection of old-growth timber reserves and for the preservation of
                         watersheds and riparian areas. Finally, the recovery zone includes areas
                         that contain typical or unique natural ecosystems and are reserved for
                         scientific and educational purposes.


                         In January 1999, officials involved in caribou recovery efforts drafted an
The Future of the        action plan that set priorities for the future of the program. Maintaining
Caribou Recovery         the core population of caribou currently residing in the southern Selkirk
Program                  Mountains was identified as the highest-priority task. However, the
                         availability of caribou for further augmenting the population, if needed, is
                         uncertain. The draft action plan also identified the investigation and
                         management of caribou mortality, including predation by cougar, as
                         high-priority tasks. Other immediate needs include producing a
                         consolidated habitat map for the recovery area, minimizing the impact of
                         winter recreation on caribou, and expanding information and education
                         efforts. However, an overriding concern of the officials involved in these
                         planning efforts is whether adequate funding will be available from the
                         cooperating agencies to accomplish these high-priority tasks. According to
                         FWS, other long-term efforts needed to ensure the recovery of the caribou
                         would be examined during FWS’ status review of the recovery plan, which
                         is due in 1999.


Immediate Needs of the   After the last augmentation effort was completed in March 1998, the
Recovery Program         caribou recovery team, the International Mountain Caribou Steering
                         Committee and the International Mountain Caribou Technical Committee



                         Page 22                                GAO/RCED-99-102 Caribou Recovery Program
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began a series of meetings to plan the future of the recovery program. As a
result of these meetings, they drafted an action plan that outlines efforts
immediately needed to maintain the existing caribou population and its
habitat. In March 1999, members of the steering committee agreed to name
the action plan the “Emergency Caribou Recovery Action Plan.”

To accomplish the highest-priority need–maintenance of the core
population, the draft action plan proposes to continue the annual census
to determine the size of the remaining population and to augment the
population when it reaches a level equal to or less than 50 animals. The
draft action plan notes that 50 is considered to be the short-term critical
threshold for augmentation. However, the plan also states that
augmentation will occur if the annual population trend is decreasing and
the 3-year recruitment rate (the percentage of calves that live to be a year
old) is less than 15 percent or if British Columbia has additional animals
available for transplant.

While the success of this strategy is likely to depend on future
augmentation efforts, as of January 1999, the availability of caribou for
such efforts was uncertain. For example, although the current population
includes only about 48 animals, no caribou are available for transplant in
1999. In commenting on our report, British Columbia’s Ministry of
Environment, Lands and Parks stated that the availability of caribou for
transplant to the southern Selkirk population has, and continues to be, a
major issue for British Columbia. The Ministry noted it is currently
reviewing the population status of mountain caribou in British Columbia
to determine whether potential source populations can sustain the loss of
additional caribou for transplant.

The draft action plan also addresses the need to establish a goal for the
total southern Selkirk caribou population. It was agreed, on the basis of
the best professional judgment of those involved in the recovery effort,
that the preliminary goal would be 200 animals. This figure could change
with additional research. The group further agreed on the area near
Stagleap Provincial Park as the preferred release site for future
augmentation efforts.8 However, some U.S. agency representatives are
concerned about the impression created by using U.S. funds to transplant
caribou to the Canadian portion of the recovery zone. In response, other
officials noted that the range of these animals still includes the United
States. Furthermore, they stated that many different species of wildlife,

8
 The advantages of using the area near Stagleap Provincial Park are discussed in this report under the
heading “Results of Augmentation Efforts.”



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including grizzly bear and certain waterfowl, regularly move back and
forth across the international border and managing all aspects of these
ecosystems necessitates work across these boundaries. The draft action
plan identified a number of other tasks, including investigating and
managing caribou mortality. This task involves (1) monitoring
radio-collared caribou to locate those that have died and attempt to
determine the causes of death and (2) studying cougar predation on
caribou. Currently, researchers in the United States and British Columbia
believe that cougar predation may be the most important factor affecting
the caribou’s survival. Accordingly, a study of cougar predation has
already been initiated. The study plan calls for radio collaring and
monitoring 40 cougar (10 each in Idaho and Washington, and 20 in British
Columbia). The objectives of the study include (1) assessing the extent
and frequency of cougar predation on caribou, (2) determining whether
predation is specific to individual cougar, and (3) determining whether
cougar predation is based on opportunity or need. Using ESA Section 6
grant funding, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has hired a
doctoral candidate from Washington State University who will coordinate
the analysis of the cougar monitoring data. As of March 22, 1999, 11 cougar
had been collared—7 by Washington and 4 by British Columbia. The Idaho
Department of Fish and Game had also begun its collaring effort. If cougar
that kill caribou are identified, the agency with jurisdiction over where
they are found will have responsibility for deciding how to deal with them.

Other tasks identified as immediate needs include producing a
consolidated map of the entire recovery zone, using Geographic
Information System data. The effort would focus initially on Forest Service
land, but recovery officials hope to extend the map to include Idaho State
and British Columbia lands as well. Another task is to minimize the impact
of recreation on caribou. This effort will focus on winter recreation,
particularly snowmobiling, and will identify areas of existing or
anticipated high snowmobile use, determine where such use conflicts with
caribou, and develop recommendations for reducing or eliminating
conflicts. An immediate need to expand information and education efforts
has also been identified. This effort will involve summarizing ongoing
activities, improving the dissemination of existing information, and
identifying alternative funding sources.

In commenting on our report, the British Columbia Ministry of
Environment, Lands and Parks stated that it supports the following
priorities for caribou recovery in the southern Selkirks: (1) ensure a
commitment to maintain funding for future recovery tasks; (2) produce a



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                   consolidated map of caribou habitat for British Columbia, Idaho, and
                   Washington; (3) establish agreements for zoning and protecting critical
                   winter habitats; (4) minimize recreational disturbance within those
                   habitats; (5) proceed with a caribou/cougar morality study, including an
                   action plan to deal with cougars identified as killing caribou; and
                   (6) expand information and education programs to obtain public support
                   for caribou recovery.

                   As of February 1999, officials planning the recovery effort were also
                   developing an estimate of the costs to implement these high-priority
                   needs. In addition, the draft action plan states that there are other
                   longer-term tasks that need to be addressed to ensure the recovery of the
                   caribou. According to FWS, these long-term efforts would be examined
                   during FWS’ status review of the recovery plan, which is due in 1999.


Funding Concerns   An overriding concern of officials planning future caribou recovery efforts
                   is whether adequate funding will be available to implement the program’s
                   short-term and long-term needs. For example, in fiscal years 1997 and
                   1998, Washington and Idaho received only about 65 and 57 percent,
                   respectively, of the Section 6 grant funding they requested. Specifically, in
                   fiscal year 1997, Washington asked for $225,000 and Idaho asked for
                   $189,000 for caribou recovery efforts. They received $140,000 and $96,000,
                   respectively. Both states asked for the same amounts in fiscal year 1998;
                   they received $153,200 and $120,200, respectively. For fiscal year 1999,
                   Washington was allocated about $97,000 of the $202,500 it requested and
                   Idaho was allocated $120,000 of the $189,000 it requested. Idaho’s Section
                   6 funding requests for these years covered the Selkirk ecosystem,
                   including grizzly bear recovery projects. Only about 35 percent of the
                   funds were used for caribou recovery projects. FWS acknowledged that it
                   has not been able to fund caribou recovery work at requested levels but
                   noted that it receives a limited appropriation for Section 6 grants that must
                   be divided among 50 states. FWS stated that these funds, which are
                   allocated to FWS regions on the basis of the number of species listed, are
                   not sufficient to fund all state-proposed recovery projects.

                   The funding concern was reiterated in a January 1999 letter from the
                   chairman of the steering committee to the director of FWS’ Region 1 in
                   Portland, Oregon. The chairman noted that the partial funding of recovery
                   efforts financed through Section 6 grants has compromised the success of
                   these efforts over the past few years. For example, because of funding
                   constraints, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has had to



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                  reduce the number of flights it makes to monitor radio-collared caribou.
                  This, in turn, has made it difficult to determine the causes of some caribou
                  deaths. Furthermore, there is also concern about whether enough funding
                  will be available to conduct a complete predator study that will yield valid
                  data.

                  The steering committee has also asked for an additional commitment of
                  FWS staff to the recovery program. According to the chairman, caribou
                  recovery is a multiagency, international program that cannot succeed
                  without the commitment of FWS staff to coordinate the effort. Currently,
                  according to FWS, its representative to the caribou recovery team can
                  spend only a relatively small portion of her time on caribou recovery
                  efforts because of a heavy workload pertaining to other ESA issues and
                  activities.

                  British Columbia officials have also expressed concern about the
                  commitment of adequate U.S. resources to the recovery effort. For
                  example, at a December 1998 steering committee meeting, the Kootenay
                  regional director for the Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks (the
                  region that encompasses the Canadian portion of the recovery zone)
                  indicated that unless British Columbia gets a clear signal of definite
                  resolve from the United States to recover the southern Selkirk caribou
                  population, further augmentation of the population will not be a high
                  priority for British Columbia.

                  Finally, the chairman of the steering committee stated that reversing the
                  negative trend for the remaining caribou population would require a
                  strong commitment of staff and funding from all of the participating
                  agencies. He noted that while the other agencies have provided, and are
                  continuing to provide, financial support, caribou recovery ultimately
                  depends on a strong financial commitment from FWS. Officials involved in
                  planning future recovery efforts recognize that all cooperating agencies
                  need to determine whether caribou recovery is a high priority, since
                  funding from these agencies is controlled by the priorities they set.
                  Accordingly, as of January 1999, recovery officials had focused their
                  efforts on obtaining a commitment for funding future recovery tasks from
                  their own agencies and from outside sources, such as conservation
                  groups.


                  We provided copies of a draft of this report to the Department of the
Agency Comments   Interior and its Fish and Wildlife Service; the Department of Agriculture’s



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Forest Service; the British Columbia Ministry of Environment, Lands and
Parks; and the states of Idaho and Washington for their review and
comment. We received letters commenting on the report from the
Department of the Interior; the Forest Service; the British Columbia
Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks; and the Washington
Department of Fish and Wildlife. We also received comments from the
Idaho Department of Fish and Game.

Interior’s letter stated that the Department was in general agreement with
our findings and offered a technical clarification that we incorporated in
the report. Interior’s letter and our response are included in appendix IV.
The Forest Service’s letter stated that the agency concurred with the
report as written (see app. V).

According to the letter from the British Columbia Ministry of
Environment, Lands and Parks, the report provides a good overview of the
recovery program. The Ministry noted, however, that it was discouraged
by the slow progress of the caribou recovery program. Furthermore, the
Ministry expressed significant concern about the recent high mortality
among radio-collared caribou and stated that identifying and addressing
the cause of this high mortality remains a very important issue for
ensuring the long-term recovery of the southern Selkirk herd. In addition,
the Ministry identified the actions or priorities that it supports for caribou
recovery in the Selkirks. Finally, the Ministry noted that the availability of
caribou for transplant to the southern Selkirk population has, and
continues to be, a major issue for British Columbia. The Ministry stated it
is currently reviewing the population status of mountain caribou in British
Columbia to determine if any of these populations could sustain a loss for
transplants. The Ministry noted, however, that any future transplants from
British Columbia would also depend upon a clear signal of definite resolve
from the United States to recover the southern Selkirk caribou population.
We included this information in the report. The Ministry’s letter and our
responses are included in appendix VI.

Washington’s Department of Fish and Wildlife noted that the report is a
good summary of caribou recovery efforts and accurately reflects
Washington’s expenditures on this effort. The Department also provided
some technical clarifications that we incorporated into the report. The
Department’s letter and our responses are included in appendix VII.

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game provided us with updated
information on the size of the caribou population, the number of caribou



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              remaining in the Idaho (Two Mouth Lakes) herd, and the location of the
              Idaho release site. We revised the report accordingly.


              To determine the amount and source of funds expended on the woodland
Scope and     caribou recovery program, we collected documentation and interviewed
Methodology   officials from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s headquarters office in
              Washington, D.C.; Region 1 office in Portland, Oregon; and Upper
              Columbia River Basin field office in Spokane, Washington. We also
              collected information on expenditures for research by FWS’ National
              Ecology Research Center from 1984 through 1992. Additionally, we
              collected documentation and interviewed officials from the Forest
              Service’s headquarters office in Washington, D.C., and Idaho Panhandle
              and Colville National Forests; the Bureau of Land Management; the Animal
              and Plant Health Inspection Service; the Idaho Department of Fish and
              Game; the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife; and the British
              Columbia Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks. We did not
              independently verify the accuracy of this expenditure information. We also
              reviewed ESA and additional information on funding sources for recovery
              efforts.

              Much of the expenditure information we obtained from the agencies
              consisted of estimates of expenses for caribou recovery efforts. Moreover,
              while we generally collected expenditure data for fiscal years 1984-98, in
              some cases, the agencies did not have complete records of their
              expenditures for this period. Accordingly, in these cases, the expenditures
              reported here are limited to the information that was available from the
              agencies and, in some instances, are likely to be conservative estimates of
              expenditures for the caribou recovery program. In addition, in some cases,
              we relied on expenditure information that the state and federal agencies
              provided for inclusion in FWS’ annual report to the Congress entitled
              Federal and State Endangered Species Expenditures. As with other
              expenditure data we collected, we did not independently verify the
              accuracy of this information. With respect to FWS and the Forest Service,
              the annual expenditure data provided in this report differed, in most cases,
              from expenditure information that we collected independently. However,
              FWS’ Assistant Director for Planning and Budget and the Forest Service’s
              Deputy Chief for Business Operations stated that, for certain years
              covered in our review, the estimates provided for the congressional report
              for their agencies are the most accurate available. The Forest Service
              noted, for example, that the data it provided for the congressional report
              included a more complete array of reasonably identified expenditures,



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including various indirect costs, such as those for the staff time spent
designing timber sales that would not adversely affect caribou and
considering the effects of other proposed land management activities on
caribou.

To report expenditures by the Bureau of Land Management and the
Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, we generally relied on data
provided in FWS’ annual reports to the Congress. This report was first
issued for fiscal year 1989. Accordingly, the first year for which we
collected expenditure data for these agencies was fiscal year 1989. In
addition, at the completion of our review, fiscal year 1995 was the most
recent year for which FWS had completed its report. The Bureau of Land
Management, however, provided us with some additional expenditure data
that were not included in FWS’ reports. We included these data in our
report.

To determine the results of the recovery program, including the outcome
of augmentation efforts and the impact of recovery efforts on land use, we
interviewed officials from agencies participating in caribou recovery
efforts. We also collected and reviewed relevant documentation, such as
ESA, proposed and final rules leading to the caribou’s listing under ESA, the
initial and revised caribou recovery plans, augmentation plans, and reports
of research performed and/or funded by FWS. We also reviewed reports
from the Idaho Department of Fish and Game and the Washington
Department of Fish and Wildlife that summarize the results of completed
caribou augmentation efforts and other recovery activities.

To determine the future direction of the recovery program, we interviewed
officials and obtained documentation from the participating agencies. We
also collected and reviewed the minutes of meetings held by the caribou
recovery team, the International Mountain Caribou Steering Committee,
and the International Mountain Caribou Technical Committee. Finally, we
reviewed their draft action plan identifying high-priority tasks for future
recovery efforts.

We conducted our review from July 1998 through April 1999 in accordance
with generally accepted government auditing standards.


We are sending copies of this report to the Honorable Bruce Babbitt,
Secretary of the Interior; the Honorable Jamie Rappaport Clark, Director,
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; the Honorable Daniel J. Glickman,



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Secretary of Agriculture; the Honorable Mike Dombeck, Chief, U.S. Forest
Service; and the Honorable Jacob Lew, Director, Office of Management
and Budget. We will also make copies available to others upon request.

If you have any questions or need additional information, please contact
me at (202) 512-3841. Major contributors to this report are listed in
appendix VIII.

Sincerely yours,




Barry T. Hill
Associate Director, Energy,
  Resources, and Science Issues




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Page 31   GAO/RCED-99-102 Caribou Recovery Program
Contents



Letter                                                                  1


Appendix I                                                             34
Summary of Reports
Resulting From
Woodland Caribou
Research Performed
or Funded by the U.S.
Fish and Wildlife
Service’s National
Ecology Research
Center
Appendix II                                                            50
Woodland Caribou in
the Southern Selkirk
Mountains
Appendix III                                                           54
Examples of the
Recovery Program’s
Tasks and
Accomplishments
Appendix IV                                                            57
Comments From the
Department of the
Interior




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                        Contents




Appendix V                                                                                         59
Comments From the
Department of
Agriculture’s Forest
Service
Appendix VI                                                                                        60
Comments From the
British Columbia
Ministry of
Environment, Lands
and Parks
Appendix VII                                                                                       63
Comments From the
Washington
Department of Fish
and Wildlife
Appendix VIII                                                                                      65
Major Contributors to
This Report
Figures                 Figure 1: The Woodland Caribou                                              2
                        Figure 2: Present and Historical Range of Woodland Caribou in               5
                          North America
                        Figure 3: The Southern Selkirk Woodland Caribou Recovery Zone               8
                        Figure 4: Sources of Funding for Caribou Recovery Efforts,                 10
                          1984-98
                        Figure 5: Caribou Release Sites in Idaho, Washington, and British          18
                          Columbia

                        Abbreviations

                        ESA        Endangered Species Act
                        FWS        U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service


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Summary of Reports Resulting From
Woodland Caribou Research Performed or
Funded by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service’s National Ecology Research Center
               The following reports, summarized in chronological order, were based on
               woodland caribou studies performed or funded by the U.S. Fish and
               Wildlife Service. This research was initiated at the Ecology Branch of FWS’
               Denver Wildlife Research Center in 1984. The Ecology Branch then joined
               FWS’ Western Energy and Land Use Team, which later became part of the
               National Ecology Research Center. In 1993, the National Ecology Research
               Center and other organizations (or portions of organizations) were merged
               to form the National Biological Survey. This organization was renamed the
               National Biological Service in 1995 and was subsequently merged into the
               U.S. Geological Survey in 1996. Although FWS has not provided funding for
               caribou research since fiscal year 1992, the results of funded studies have
               continued to be published, most recently in 1998.

               For each report we identified, we included an abstract describing its
               findings. In most cases, the researchers that wrote the reports prepared
               these abstracts. However, GAO prepared abstracts for 10 of the reports. The
               GAO-prepared abstracts were subsequently reviewed and approved by the
               primary researcher who prepared the reports.

               Chronological Listing of Reports

               Rominger, E.M., and J.L. Oldemeyer. 1986. Forest and Snow Components
               of Selkirk Mountain Caribou Early Winter Habitat. Unpublished Report,
               U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Fort Collins, Colorado. 45 pp.

               Abstract

               The Selkirk Mountain caribou population of northern Idaho, northeastern
               Washington, and southeast British Columbia was listed as an endangered
               species in 1983 under the Endangered Species Act of 1973. This isolated
               remnant caribou population resides primarily in British Columbia, with a
               few individuals as part-time residents in the United States (Scott and
               Servheen 1985). Although woodland caribou originally occurred in all
               Canadian border states (Hall 1981) and 350 miles south of their present
               range in Idaho (Johnson 1967), the Selkirk population of 25-30 woodland
               caribou is considered the last remaining herd in the 48 contiguous states.

               Selkirk caribou select seasonal habitats within their home range and
               movements include the classic double migration described by Edwards
               and Ritcey (1959) for woodland caribou in Wells Gray Provincial Park,
               British Columbia. Ecological and socioeconomic factors combine to make
               early winter habitat the most critical seasonal habitat. Early winter habitat



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is located in the old-growth cedar/hemlock forest types and between this
type and the higher-elevation spruce/fir forest type. Most early winter
habitat occurs between 1375 and 1675 meters, generally on northerly
slopes (Scott and Servheen 1985). Old-growth cedar/hemlock is
economically important to the timber industry because of the efficiency of
harvest and consequently has been extensively logged in both Canadian
and U.S. caribou habitat.

Caribou begin a major shift in diet selection during the onset of early
winter as plant aging and early snows decrease the availability and
efficiency of harvest of vascular plants. Soft deep snows physically inhibit
caribou from using the arboreal lichen component of the spruce/fir
community until snow packs settle and harden. Therefore, caribou must
adapt a foraging strategy intermediate to open fall grazing and late winter
foraging on arboreal lichens. Weather conditions make early winter the
most difficult time to monitor woodland caribou. Lack of information
during early winter for Selkirk caribou and studies of woodland caribou
(Edwards and Ritcey 1959, Stardom 1975, Bloomfield 1980, Antifeau
1985) and the need to better understand caribou use of early winter
habitat in relation to forestry practices was the impetus for this research.

Rominger, E.M., and J.L. Oldemeyer. 1987. Habitat Component Mapping of
Selkirk Mountain Caribou Early Winter Habitat in Southeastern British
Columbia, Canada. Unpublished Report, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,
National Ecology Research Center, Fort Collins, Colorado. 56 pp.

Abstract

The Selkirk Mountain caribou population of northern Idaho, northeast
Washington, and southeast British Columbia was listed as endangered in
1983 in accordance with the Endangered Species Act of 1973. This isolated
remnant caribou population resides primarily in British Columbia, with a
few individuals as part-time residents in the United States (Scott and
Servheen 1985).

Preliminary research during 1983-84, by the Idaho Department of Fish and
Game, delineated population status, home range and seasonal habitat use
(Scott and Servheen 1985). This research determined early winter habitat
to be the most critical seasonal habitat because of the substantial use of
the economically important old-growth western red cedar/western
hemlock community and because snow reduced the availability of forage
and initiated the transition from summer forage comprised primarily of



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Service’s National Ecology Research Center




vascular forage, to the late winter diet of almost exclusively arboreal
lichens. These concerns were the impetus for the initiation of an in-depth
study by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to map habitat components in
critical drainages used by caribou during early winter and monitor habitat
components at actual early winter caribou use sites during early winter
(Rominger and Oldemeyer 1986).

The objective of this report is to describe the physical and silvicultural
components of the Waldie and Curtis Creek drainages and their
tributaries. These two drainages are in British Columbia on the west side
of the Selkirk Range, where a majority of early winter sightings of caribou
during 1983-84 occurred. This report includes maps and site descriptions
of the area mapped into habitat components during the summer of 1985
and site descriptions of caribou early winter sightings from 1983-86 (Scott
and Servheen 1985, Rominger and Oldemeyer 1986). This report will
enable resource managers to evaluate future impacts of logging, mining,
and recreation on this portion of Selkirk caribou early winter habitat.
These data can also be compared with data from caribou use sites and
proportions of these drainages that provide optimal habitat. Comparisons
of these habitats with historical range in the United States will enable
biologists to better manage reintroduced caribou. Climate, geology,
caribou use of early winter habitat, and other aspects of Selkirk caribou
ecology are addressed in separate reports (Crawford and Scott 1985, Scott
and Servheen 1985, Rominger and Oldemeyer 1986).

Rominger, E.M. 1987. “Lichen-Bearing Windthrown Trees Are Important
to Selkirk Caribou Early-Winter Habitat.” U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,
Research Information Bulletin No. 87:124.

Abstract

The native woodland caribou population that inhabits northern Idaho,
northeastern Washington, and southeastern British Columbia is currently
composed of 25-30 animals, with most seasonal ranges occurring in
Canada. In March 1987, 24 additional woodland caribou were transplanted
into northern Idaho from two populations in British Columbia. The
National Ecology Research Center began investigating early winter habitat
of the native population in 1985. Early winter in the Selkirk Mountains is
defined as the period from first snowfall until snow depths and other
conditions enable caribou to ascend to late-winter habitats in
higher-elevation Engelmann spruce/subalpine fir forests. This seasonal
habitat has been determined to be the most critical for caribou survival.



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Rominger, E.M., and J.L. Oldemeyer. 1988. “Quantification of Woodland
Caribou Early Winter Habitat, Selkirk Mountains, British Columbia.”
Proceedings of the 3rd North American Caribou Workshop. Alaska
Department of Fish and Game, Wildlife Technical Bulletin No. 8:161-162.

Abstract

In winter 1986-87, there were 25-30 woodland caribou in the endangered
population inhabiting the Selkirk Mountains in the Pacific Northwest.
These caribou ranged primarily in southeastern British Columbia but also
frequented northern Idaho and northeastern Washington. In March 1987,
24 woodland caribou from two British Columbia populations were
transplanted to northern Idaho to improve the Selkirk population’s
chances of long-term survival.

In 1985, the National Ecology Center, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, began
studying early winter habitat of the Selkirk population, specifically during
the period from first snowfall until snow conditions permit/cause caribou
to move upslope to forest communities at 1,500 meters to 1,800 meters
elevation. Early winter use occurs primarily in mature/old-growth stands
of economically important timber in both the Engelmann spruce/subalpine
fir and the western red cedar/western hemlock communities; the area
between the two communities is also used extensively. The
lower-elevation, more densely canopied cedar/hemlock community is
particularly important because snow is shallower there, which reduces
energy costs to caribou and extends the availability of green vascular
forage. In the higher-elevation, more open-canopied spruce/fir community,
the increased costs of locomotion through deeper snow are apparently
offset by increased availability of highly digestible arboreal lichens.

Compared with randomly selected locations, actual caribou use sites had
significantly (P<0.05) more lichen-bearing, recently windthrown trees;
were at higher elevation; and had lower slope angles, canopy cover, and
tree basal area. Arboreal lichen on windthrown trees was apparently
important forage because vascular plants were buried by snow.

Because Selkirk caribou use spruce/fir and cedar/hemlock communities
extensively during early winter, we recommend that mature old-growth
stands for both forest types be maintained. Special considerations should
be given to stands on less steep slopes where available arboreal lichen
biomass is relatively high and is replenished by trees which are commonly
blown down.



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Rominger, E.M., and J.L. Oldemeyer. 1989. “Early-Winter Habitat of
Woodland Caribou, Selkirk Mountains, British Columbia.” Journal of
Wildlife Management 53(1):238-243.

Abstract

We monitored early-winter habitat use by woodland caribou in the
southern Selkirk Mountains, British Columbia, during November and
December 1985-86. We compared biological and physical attributes of
random locations within known early-winter caribou range to actual
caribou use sites. Univariate and descriptive discriminate analysis
indicated significant (P<0.05) separation of several habitat variables
between random sites and sites used by caribou. We observed caribou in
old-growth stands with moderate slopes (<30 degrees); greater density of
recently windthrown, lichen-bearing trees; higher elevations; and less
canopy cover and total tree basal area than measured at random plots.
Because the Selkirk caribou use Engelmann spruce-subalpine fir and
western red cedar/western hemlock communities, we recommend
maintenance of old-growth timber in these habitat types.

Rominger, E.M. 1990. Caribou Diets and Arboreal Lichen Availability.
Proceedings of the Caribou Workshop, Ministry of Environment, British
Columbia. 4 pp.

Abstract

Mr. Rominger looked at the lichen biomass estimates of standing trees,
blowdown/litterfall, and effects of landform on tree density. He also deals
with forage intake rates, primarily for barren ground caribou and reindeer.
He suggests 2 kg/day rather than 5 kg/day may be a more reasonable
estimate. This is a more reasonable estimate when compared with the dry
forage and intake of other species. He cites Detrick (1984) as the most
complete work, using the destructive technique of cutting branches,
collecting all the lichen, and weighing it. The literature available usually
refers to subalpine fir and Engelmann spruce.

Factors to be considered in regard to the lichen intake rate of woodland
caribou are the nutritional values, energy variation in foraging strategy,
body size and winter severity. There is up to twice the protein in arboreal
lichen as compared with terrestrial lichen. Foraging on arboreal lichen is
probably more energy efficient than cratering of barren ground caribou.
Milder (maritime) climates where caribou were not subjected to



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temperature extremes should also be considered. However, the larger
body size of woodland caribou may cause an increase in intake rate
compared with barren ground caribou.

Rominger, E.M. 1990. “Research Continues on Augmentation of the
Southern Selkirk Mountain Caribou Herd.” Endangered Species Technical
Bulletin, Vol. XV(8):6.

Abstract

Woodland caribou once occurred widely in forested regions from
southeastern Alaska, through much of Canada, to the northern
conterminous United States. Due to extensive habitat alteration and
unrestrictive shooting, however, only one population still naturally occurs
in the conterminous United States. In 1983, this remnant herd, which
occurs in the Selkirk Mountains of northern Idaho, northeastern
Washington, and southeastern British Columbia, was estimated at 25-30
individuals. The animals in this herd were rarely seen in the United States
because most of their seasonal habitats were in Canada. The potential
threats to the survival of the southern Selkirk Mountain caribou herd while
in the United States, including poaching, habitat loss, collisions with motor
vehicles, and genetic problems from inbreeding, led the Fish and Wildlife
Service to list the population as endangered in February 1984 (see
BULLETIN Vol. IX, No. 3).

Rominger, E.M., and J.L. Oldemeyer. 1990. “Early-Winter Diet of
Woodland Caribou in Relation to Snow Accumulation, Selkirk Mountains,
British Columbia, Canada.” Canadian Journal of Zoology, Vol. 68(12):
2691-2694.

Abstract

Woodland caribou in the southern Selkirk Mountains of British Columbia
shift from a diet of primarily vascular plants during snow-free months to
an arboreal lichen-conifer diet during late winter. We present evidence
that caribou diets, during the early-winter transition period, are influenced
by snow accumulation rates. Caribou shift to an arboreal lichen-conifer
diet earlier during winters of rapid snow accumulation and forage
extensively on myrtle boxwood, an evergreen shrub, and other vascular
plants during years of slower snow accumulation. The role of coniferous
forage in early-winter food habits is examined. Forest management




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Service’s National Ecology Research Center




strategies can be developed to provide habitat that will enable caribou to
forage in response to varying snow accumulation rates.

Rominger, E.M., J.L. Oldemeyer, R.W.T. Detrick, and D.R. Johnson. 1990.
Arboreal Lichen Biomass on Live and Dead Subalpine Fir, Northern Idaho.
Unpublished Report, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Fort Collins, Colorado.
35 pp.

Abstract

Two estimates of arboreal lichen biomass on subalpine fir were summed
separately and combined to estimate the availability of this forage for
woodland caribou in high-snowpack ecosystems of Southwest British
Columbia and northwestern United States. We estimated lichen biomass
between two and six meters on standing trees to determine availability at
various snow depths during late winter. This estimate was combined with
a biomass value between six meters and treetop to estimate lichen
availability on whole trees made available to caribou via windthrow. We
sampled arboreal lichen from more than 1,050 branches on 266 trees and
snags between two and six meters and more than 1,100 branches on 111
trees and snags between six meters and treetop. Total biomass estimates
for three diameter-size classes ranged from 444 to 1,170 grams for dead
trees and from 716 to 3,075 grams for live trees. Despite the universally
large variances concomitant with estimating mean arboreal lichen
biomass, the averages of several other studies on arboreal lichen biomass
are similar to our estimate for two to six meters on whole trees. These
estimates of arboreal lichen biomass will enable us to better understand
the winter ecology of woodland caribou.

Warren, C.D. 1990. Ecotypic Response and Habitat Use of Woodland
Caribou Translocated to the Southern Selkirk Mountains, Northern Idaho.
M.S. Thesis, University of Idaho, Moscow. 194 pp.

Abstract

Between April 1987 and March 1990 the ecotypic response and habitat use
of translocated woodland caribou were studied in northern Idaho and
southern British Columbia. Two populations, each representing an
ecotype of woodland caribou, were used as sources for the reintroduction
effort. Anahim Lake caribou (woodland ecotype) were captured in
west-central British Columbia. Revelstoke caribou (mountain type) were
captured in southeastern British Columbia. Over the first two years, 48



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Service’s National Ecology Research Center




radio-collared caribou were released into the southern Selkirk Mountains,
including 26 Anahim and 22 Revelstoke animals. A total of 962 relocations
were recorded, 443 of which were sampled for habitat characteristics.
Significantly more Revelstoke caribou emigrated from the release area and
joined resident caribou herds in southern British Columbia, while Anahim
caribou incurred significantly greater mortality. These differences were
most apparent during the first year after release. Habitat use patterns
revealed important interactions between the two translocated populations
and the nearest resident (Stagleap, mountain ecotype) caribou herd. The
two most important influences affecting the response of the caribou
appeared to be their traditional habitat use patterns acquired from their
native herds and the habitat use patterns learned, or assimilated, from
other caribou after release. The late winter period showed the greatest
difference between the caribou ecotypes. Anahim caribou used mature,
densely forested areas on south-facing slopes, while the late winter habitat
use of Revelstoke and Stagleap-area caribou showed no distinct pattern.
There were also differences specific to the caribou populations during the
other seasons. Summer habitat use patterns suggest that differences exist
between the release area in northern Idaho and the area occupied by the
resident Stagleap herd. Differences in habitat use between years of study
indicated that some “random” searching behavior occurred for several
months following release and that the translocated caribou could adjust
certain habitat use patterns in response to being placed in unfamiliar
territory. All seasons revealed some similarities in habitat use between the
caribou populations, indicating universal habitat needs of the woodland
subspecies. The taxonomic and evolutionary status of mountain caribou
are discussed. Finally, the implications of this studies’ findings for
translocation efforts conducted on other species and recommendations
for the continued management of the Selkirk Mountains caribou are
presented.

Rominger, E.M., and J.L. Oldemeyer. 1991. “Arboreal Lichen on
Windthrown Trees: A Seasonal Forage Resource for Woodland Caribou,
Selkirk Mountains, British Columbia.” Proceedings of the 4th North
American Caribou Workshop, Newfoundland and Labrador Wildlife
Division: 475-480.

Abstract

Arboreal lichen, particularly fruticose beard lichens, are important
early-winter forages in the high snowpack ecosystems of western North
America. As snow depth increase in the Selkirk Mountains of northern



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Idaho and southeastern British Columbia, woodland caribou feed
extensively on recently windthrown lichen-bearing trees and snags.
One-hectare areas around caribou early-winter locations had significantly
(P< 0.001) greater amounts of recently windthrown trees compared with
randomly placed 1-hectare plots within caribou early-winter habitat. This
study estimates the potential contribution of windthrow to the woodland
caribou forage base in Selkirk Mountains. Subalpine fir trees and snags
dominated (85 percent) the windthrow component at both caribou and
random locations. We sampled arboreal lichen on subalpine fir trees and
snags felled at logging operations in northern Idaho. Subalpine fir trees
and snags were stratified by 3 size classes and sampled in proportion to
their occurrence in the windthrow measured at caribou and random
locations. The estimates of arboreal lichen biomass made available via
windthrow are compared with biomass available in standing trees up to 3
meters.

Rominger, E.M., J.L. Oldemeyer, and C.T. Robbins. 1991. “Foraging
Dynamics and Woodland Caribou: A Winter Management Conundrum,”
Proceedings of the Fifth North American Caribou Workshop, Rangifer,
Special Issue No. 7(123).

Abstract

Research, primarily on the endangered Selkirk woodland caribou
population, has enabled biologists to answer many of the basic ecology
questions pertaining to caribou in high snowpack ecosystems. Data have
been collected on habitat selection (Freddy 1974; Scott and Servheen 1985;
Simpson et al. 1985; Rominger and Oldemeyer 1989; Warren 1990), food
habits (Freddy 1974; Scott and Servheen 1985; Simpson et al. 1985;
Rominger and Oldemeyer 1990), arboreal lichen biomass (Stevenson 1979;
Detrick 1984; Rominger et al. submitted), tree density in subalpine forests
(Rominger and Oldemeyer submitted), and arboreal lichen nutritional
quality (Antifeau 1987; Robbins 1987). Specific knowledge that is lacking
for caribou winter nutritional ecology includes forage intake rates during
winter and the constraints upon this process. The interrelationship of
snow depth, aspect, lichen biomass within vertical strata of trees, daily
intake, constraints upon this intake, and tree density in relation to both
forage dynamics and potential predator detection combine to make this
process very complex. The nearly monophagous late-winter diet reported
for woodland caribou in these high snowpack ecosystems affords a unique
opportunity in wild ungulate ecology to recreate an accurate facsimile of
diet choices in a laboratory setting. We propose a dissertation research



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project to test specific hypotheses related to late-winter foraging ecology
using pen-raised woodland caribou at Washington State University.

Rominger, E.M., and J.L. Oldemeyer. 1991. Comparison of Fixed-Plot and
Variable-Plot Sampling to Estimate Tree Density in Selkirk Woodland
Caribou Subalpine Forest Habitat. Unpublished Report, U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service, Fort Collins, Colorado. 20 pp.

Abstract

An accurate estimate of tree composition and density is important to the
management of woodland caribou because of their relationship to the
biomass of arboreal lichens. The fruticose arboreal lichens within these
trees are the principal winter forage of woodland caribou in high
snowpack ecosystems. We tested four density estimation techniques in
timber stands with known densities. A fixed subplot (400 square meters)
was determined to be the most accurate technique, and point-centered
quarter was the least accurate. Mean stem density of live and dead
standing trees greater than or equal to 13 centimeters’ diameter at breast
height in homogeneous stands of mature to old-growth subalpine
fir/Engelmann spruce was 395 plus or minus 37.7 stems per hectare (mean
and 95-percent confidence interval).

Rominger, E.M. 1992. Early-Winter Habitat of the Selkirk Woodland
Caribou. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Ecology Research Center,
Fort Collins, Colorado. 19 pp.

Abstract

Early winter is bounded by the abiotic constraint of snowfall and snow
condition rather than by a temporal frame. The first persistent snowfall
initiates early winter, and crusted deep snow that enables caribou to
ascend into late-winter habitat terminates this season. This period may
overlap with rut activities in October or may not occur until January or
February. The bioenergetic costs of travel in deep soft snow and the
relatively minor vertical lift afforded by early-winter snow conditions are
among the parameters that constrict Selkirk caribou below high elevation
late-winter habitat. The potential for caribou to use lower elevation, often
snow-free habitats exists. However, during early winter, caribou are
primarily found in mature/old-growth subalpine fir/Engelmann spruce and
western hemlock/western red cedar forests and the area between these
two forest types on moderate slopes between 1500 and 1900 meters. The



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conclusions presented in this chapter on early-winter ecology of Selkirk
caribou are based on data collected on the extant population in British
Columbia during early winters 1985-86 (Rominger and Oldemeyer 1989a,b;
1990) and earlier research (Freddy 1974, Scott and Servheen 1985).

Rominger, E.M. 1992. Revision for the Early-Winter Habitat Chapter,
Selkirk Woodland Caribou Recovery Plan. National Ecology Research
Center, Fort Collins, Colorado. 26 pp.

Abstract

Early winter is bounded by the abiotic constraint of snowfall and snow
condition rather than a temporal frame. The first persistent snowfall
initiates early winter, and crusted deep snow that enables caribou to
ascend into late-winter habitat terminates this season. This period may
overlap with rut activities in October or may not occur until January or
February. The bioenergetic costs of travel in deep, soft snow and the
relatively minor vertical lift afforded by early-winter snow conditions are
among the parameters that constrict Selkirk caribou below high-elevation
late-winter habitat. The potential for caribou to use lower elevation, often
snow-free habitats exists. However, during early winter, caribou are
primarily found in mature/old-growth subalpine fir/Engelmann spruce and
western hemlock/western red cedar forests and in the area between these
two forest types on moderate slopes between 1500 and 1900 meters. The
conclusions presented in this chapter on the early-winter ecology of
Selkirk caribou are based on data collected on the extant population in
British Columbia during early winters 1985-86 (Rominger and Oldemeyer
1989a,b, 1990) and earlier research (Freddy 1974, Scott and Servheen
1985). Habitat parameters of caribou use sites were compared with
random locations within predicted caribou early-winter habitat during
1985 and 1986.

Rominger, E.M., L. Allen-Johnson, and J.L. Oldemeyer. 1994. “Arboreal
Lichen in Uncut and Partially Cut Subalpine Fir Stands in Woodland
Caribou Habitat, Northern Idaho and Southeastern British Columbia.”
Forest Ecology and Management 70:195-202.

Abstract

To better understand the effects of partial cutting on arboreal lichen
biomass production within woodland caribou habitat, lichen was hand
picked from 1228 branches on 307 subalpine fir trees in Idaho and in



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British Columbia. Lichen biomass from partially cut stands was compared
with biomass on trees from adjacent uncut stands at each site. Arboreal
lichen biomass did not differ significantly between uncut and partially cut
stands. The total number of branches per tree did not differ significantly
between uncut and partially cut stands. Live branches had more lichen
than dead branches. Species composition of arboreal lichen changed in
partially cut stands compared with adjacent uncut stands. The ratio of live
to dead branches was substantially different within the British Columbia
partial cut.

Rominger, E.M. 1995. Late Winter Foraging Ecology of Woodland Caribou.
Ph.D. Dissertation, Washington State University, Pullman. 68 pp.

Abstract

To better understand the late winter foraging ecology of woodland caribou
in the arboreal lichen feeding niche, bottle-raised caribou were used in
laboratory and field trials. Variables with the greatest influence on intake
rate differed between laboratory and field trials. Bite size was the most
important variable in laboratory trials; bite rate was the most important in
field trials. During late winter field trials, caribou foraged on lichen
primarily on standing subalpine fir and dead trees. Bite size, bite rate,
intake rate, tree resident time, and amount of lichen eaten per tree were
included in a general linear model with tree species, tree size class, and
tree lichen class as the independent variables. All variables except bite size
increased significantly with an increase in tree lichen class. Compared
with theoretical maximums, intake rate was low on all lichen class trees
(range 1.4 to 2.1 g/min). Caribou would have to forage 14 to 21 hours to
meet predicted daily requirements. Tree resident time and time between
trees varied inversely with tree density. In cafeteria style preference trials
using the two primary arboreal lichen genera, caribou strongly preferred
Bryoria spp. (92 percent) compared to Alectoria Sarmentosa (8 percent).
Apparent dry matter digestibility of this diet was 82 percent. Data from
late winter field trials were used to test recent functional response models
relative to optimality and mechanisms. Observed patch resident time,
amount of lichen eaten per patch, lichen intake rate, and bite rate of
caribou were significantly lower than model predictions. I conclude that
short temporal frame foraging trials with fasted ungulates do not
accurately reflect foraging ecology under field conditions, that caribou do
not forage “optimally” as defined by current models, and that multiple
tests of models will be required to integrate foraging theory and
management.



Page 45                                      GAO/RCED-99-102 Caribou Recovery Program
Appendix I
Summary of Reports Resulting From
Woodland Caribou Research Performed or
Funded by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service’s National Ecology Research Center




Rominger, E.M., C.T. Robbins, and M.A. Evans. 1996. “Winter Foraging
Ecology of Woodland Caribou in Northeastern Washington.” Journal of
Wildlife Management 60(4): 719-728.

Abstract

To better understand the late winter foraging ecology of woodland caribou
feeding on arboreal lichens, we used bottle-raised caribou in experimental
arena trials with artificial trees, and in field trials within historical
late-winter habitat. Factors with the greatest influence on intake rate
differed between experimental arena and field trials. Bite size was the
most important variable in experimental arena trials; bite rate was the
most important in field trials. During late winter field trials, caribou forged
on lichen primarily on standing subalpine fir and dead trees. Bite size, bite
rate, intake rate, tree resident time, and amount of lichen eaten per tree
were included in a general linear model with tree species, tree size class,
and tree lichen class (<average, average, and >average) as the
independent variables. Tree lichen class was the most important variable
in the model, and 76 percent of all bites occurred on >average lichen class
trees. Compared with theoretical maximums, intake rate was low on all
lichen class trees (range = 1.4-2.1 g/min). At these intake rates caribou
would have to forage 14-21 hours to meet predicted daily requirements.
Tree resident time and time between trees varied inversely with tree
density. In cafeteria style preference trials with the 2 primary arboreal
lichen genera, caribou strongly preferred Bryoria (92 percent) compared
to Alectoria Sarmentosa (8 percent). Apparent dry matter digestibility of
this diet was 82 percent. Timber stands must be substantially older than
traditional harvest rotation lengths to provide the high lichen biomass
found on >average lichen class trees. Caribou remained in habitats where
Bryoria was the predominant genus of arboreal lichen and would not
forage in Alectoria Sarmentosa dominated valley bottom habitat.

Warren, C.D., J.M. Peek, G.L. Servheen, and P. Zager. 1996. “Habitat Use
and Movements of Two Ecotypes of Translocated Caribou in Idaho and
British Columbia.” Conservation Biology 10(2): 547-553.

Abstract

Two woodland caribou ecotypes, mountain and northern, were
translocated to the southern Selkirk Mountains in northern Idaho to
augment a remnant subpopulation. The translocation resulted in an
additional subpopulation that used the general area of the release site. The



Page 46                                      GAO/RCED-99-102 Caribou Recovery Program
Appendix I
Summary of Reports Resulting From
Woodland Caribou Research Performed or
Funded by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service’s National Ecology Research Center




mountain ecotype stock exhibited patterns of movement and habitat use
similar to those of the resident subpopulation. The northern ecotype stock
exhibited more variable habitat use, especially in the first year after
translocation. Dispersal of the northern stock was not as extensive as that
of the mountain stock. Fourteen of 22 caribou from the northern stock and
6 of 18 caribou from the mountain stock died during the 3-year period after
the release. Our results suggest that when donor subpopulations must be
used that do not closely compare with resident subpopulations extinct or
extant, larger numbers of individuals may be needed to establish a
self-sustaining population.

Rominger, E.M., and C.T. Robbins. 1996. “Winter Foraging Dynamics of
Woodland Caribou in an Artificial Landscape.” Proceedings of the Sixth
North American Caribou Workshop. Rangifer, Special Issue No. 9:235-236.

Abstract

Woodland caribou subsist on a nearly monophagous diet of alectorioid
arboreal lichens during winter in the high snowpack ecosystems of
western North America. This phenomenon provided an opportunity to
mimic an entire seasonal diet in a laboratory situation using bottle-raised
woodland caribou. Arboreal lichen biomass is reported to vary
significantly among tree species (i.e., more lichen on subalpine fir than on
Engelmann spruce), among topographical sites (i.e., more lichen on valley
bottom trees than on mid-slope trees) and along the vertical axis of trees
(i.e., more lichen on branches between 4 and 5 meters than between 2 and
3 meters; Detrick, 1984). The objective of this experiment was to quantify
arboreal lichen intake rates of woodland caribou foraging on natural
branches collected from two land types, and two foraging heights within
trees. We report the results of foraging trails using 8 woodland caribou (3,
2.5-year-old steers; 1, 1.5-year-old female; and 4 steer calves) conducted in
an artificial forest during the autumn of 1992.

Rominger, E.M., and C.T. Robbins. 1996. “Generic Preference and In-Vivo
Digestibility of Alectorioid Arboreal Lichens by Woodland Caribou.”
Proceedings of the Sixth North American Caribou Workshop. Rangifer,
Special Issue No. 9:379-380.

Abstract

Lichens are eaten by most ungulate species in North America (Bergerud,
1972; Steveson, 1978; Jenkins & Wright, 1987; Fox & Smith, 1988; Klein &



Page 47                                      GAO/RCED-99-102 Caribou Recovery Program
Appendix I
Summary of Reports Resulting From
Woodland Caribou Research Performed or
Funded by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service’s National Ecology Research Center




Bay, 1990). However, none of these species are more obligate lichen
feeders than woodland caribou in ecosystems of western North America
where deep snowpacks preclude cratering. The digestibility of lichens is
reported to vary substantially (21 percent to 85 percent; Hanley &
McKendrick, 1983; Robbins, 1987) depending on technique and, in the case
of in-vitro analyses, inoculum source (Person et al., 1980; Thomas et al.,
1984; Antifeau, 1987). The objective of this experiment was to determine
the in-vivo digestibility of and generic preference for the 2 primary
arboreal lichens found in late-winter woodland caribou habitat in
southeastern British Columbia, northern Idaho, and northeastern
Washington.

Rominger, E.M. 1998. “Autumn Foraging Dynamics of Woodland Caribou
in Experimentally Manipulated Habitat.” Proceedings of the Seventh
North American Caribou Conference. Rangifer, Special Issue No. 10:261.

Abstract

Unlike other North American cervids, woodland caribou in the Selkirk
ecosystem do not forage or browse. Therefore, during autumn, as forbs
become senescent and deciduous shrubs defoliate, caribou foraging
decisions are narrowed. Shallow snow depths preclude a diet shift to
arboreal lichen in standing trees, as is observed in late winter. The
objective of this research was to determine the importance of the two
principal forage items previously reported in autumn diets: (1) arboreal
lichen on windthrown trees and (2) the evergreen shrub myrtle boxwood.
Foraging trails were conducted with three tame woodland caribou in six
5000 square meter pens experimentally manipulated to either remove all
windthrown trees and myrtle boxwood or retain extant myrtle boxwood
and add “windthrown” trees by felling trees. Additionally, the pen design
was such that half was in an old-growth stand of western red
cedar/western hemlock and half was in an adjacent clear-cut.

Arboreal lichen, as a result of a large bite size, had the greatest influence
on intake rate. Caribou in pens with lichen bearing windthrown trees had
significantly higher intake rates (P<0.006) and significantly lower
(P<0.01) eating bite rates (exclusive of search time between plants).
Foraging bite rate (inclusive of search time between plants) did not differ
(P<0.20) due to treatment. Intake rates (P<0.005) and foraging bite rates
(P<0.03) of caribou were significantly greater in timbered portions of
pens. Search time was significantly greater (P<0.005) in clear-cut portions
of pens. In the timbered portion of treatment pens, lichen comprised



Page 48                                      GAO/RCED-99-102 Caribou Recovery Program
Appendix I
Summary of Reports Resulting From
Woodland Caribou Research Performed or
Funded by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service’s National Ecology Research Center




34 percent of the total bites and 67 percent of the dry matter intake and
arboreal lichen from windthrown trees comprised 27 percent of the total
bites and 52 percent of the dry matter intake. These data suggest that
aboreal lichen is an important dietary component earlier in autumn than
previously reported and extends the period that woodland caribou subsist
primarily or solely on arboreal lichen 30 to 60 days in the high snowpack
ecosystems of western North America.

Tame caribou autumn diets comprised less than one-percent myrtle
boxwood, in apparent conflict with observations of wild caribou in
timbered habitats with myrtle boxwood. However, in these trials, more
then 95 percent of the myrtle boxwood occurred in the clear-cut portion of
trial pens, and forages in clear-cuts have been reported to have
significantly higher levels of secondary plant compounds. Total phenolics
in myrtle boxwood samples collected from the clear-cut portion of trial
pens and from clear-cuts in British Columbia were 3 times greater than
levels in myrtle boxwood samples collected from old-growth stands in
British Columbia. In addition, snow depths underneath the forest canopy
never covered the primary forage plants. I hypothesize that these
woodland caribou forage very little on myrtle boxwood because of (1) the
availability of other forage species, and (2) the high level of phenolics
present in myrtle boxwood during these trials.




Page 49                                      GAO/RCED-99-102 Caribou Recovery Program
Appendix II

Woodland Caribou in the Southern Selkirk
Mountains

              Woodland caribou are one of seven remaining subspecies of caribou in
              North America.9 There are two varieties, or ecotypes, of woodland
              caribou–mountain and northern. The two ecotypes are not genetically
              distinct and differ only in the use they make of their habitat and in their
              behavior. For example, mountain caribou do not congregate in large herds,
              as do northern caribou. Mountain caribou also live in areas of high
              snowfall where they feed largely on tree-borne lichen in the winter,
              whereas northern caribou inhabit less mountainous terrain and dig in the
              snow for low-growing lichens and other plants.

              Mountain caribou in the southern Selkirk Mountains use different types of
              habitat, at varying elevations, depending on the season. For example, they
              spend the early winter at elevations of 3,000 to 6,200 feet, where they feed
              on tree-borne lichens that have blown to the ground and on remaining
              green forage. As snow hardens later in the winter, they move to elevations
              generally above 6,000 feet, where they feed primarily on lichens hanging
              from trees. In the spring, mountain caribou move down to areas where
              new green forage is available. Although mountain caribou exhibit seasonal
              movements, they depend on mature to old-growth forests for habitat and
              food for much of the year.

              The mountain ecotype of woodland caribou is found mainly in central and
              southeastern British Columbia. The northern ecotype ranges over much of
              the remainder of Canada. Historically, woodland caribou were distributed
              throughout much of Canada and portions of the northern tier of the United
              States.

              Currently, the only caribou population that regularly inhabits the
              contiguous United States is the mountain caribou population of the
              southern Selkirk Mountains. Its range is restricted to a relatively small
              area in southeastern British Columbia, extreme northeastern Washington,
              and northern Idaho. While records suggest that caribou in the area were
              plentiful in the 19th century, the population had declined to about 100
              individuals by the 1950s. By the early 1980s, the population had further
              declined to about 30, and the caribou had become one of the most
              critically endangered mammals in the United States.

              Interest in managing the woodland caribou in the southern Selkirks
              increased as the population decreased. In 1971, U.S. and Canadian
              resource management agencies signed a cooperative agreement to

              9
               The caribou that inhabit portions of Alaska are a separate subspecies that tend to gather and migrate
              in larger herds.



              Page 50                                             GAO/RCED-99-102 Caribou Recovery Program
Appendix II
Woodland Caribou in the Southern Selkirk
Mountains




investigate and monitor the caribou. The agencies included the Forest
Service, the Washington Department of Game, the Idaho Fish and Game
Commission, the British Columbia Fish and Wildlife Branch, the British
Columbia Forest Service, and the University of Idaho. The agreement
resulted in the formation of the International Mountain Caribou Steering
Committee and the International Mountain Caribou Technical Committee.
The steering committee was established to approve plans for studies and
funding and to help set direction for caribou recovery efforts and for the
technical committee. The steering committee’s members include
management-level representatives of the participating agencies. The
technical committee was tasked with coordinating caribou management
and research studies and with serving as a clearinghouse for information
that promotes management activities designed to reverse the decline of
the caribou population. Membership in the technical committee is open
and includes wildlife biologists from the participating agencies; individuals
working on caribou research; and other interested parties, such as private
citizens, timber companies, and environmental groups. The cooperative
agreement produced a series of population and habitat studies in the 1970s
and 1980s. Both committees are still active and are key participants in
current caribou recovery efforts.

In 1977, the Idaho Fish and Game Commission designated the caribou as
an endangered species in the state. The Washington Game Commission
designated the caribou as endangered in 1982. In 1980, the Idaho
Department of Fish and Game and a private citizen petitioned the U.S. Fish
and Wildlife Service (FWS) to list the southern Selkirk population of
woodland caribou under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). FWS issued an
emergency rule designating the population as endangered in January 1983.
The emergency rule was extended in October 1983, and a final rule listing
the species as endangered was issued in February 1984.

Under ESA, once a species is identified as threatened or endangered, the
responsible agency (in the case of the caribou, FWS) must develop and
implement a recovery plan unless such a plan would not contribute to the
conservation of the species. For example, some species have not been
recently sighted and may be extinct. For those species, the preparation of
a recovery plan is deferred until individuals are found in the wild. In
addition, state management plans are used in place of recovery plans for
some species, and some species do not have individual recovery plans
because they are covered by multispecies plans.




Page 51                                    GAO/RCED-99-102 Caribou Recovery Program
Appendix II
Woodland Caribou in the Southern Selkirk
Mountains




A recovery plan details the specific tasks that are considered necessary to
recover a species. The plan can identify (but not obligate) other parties,
such as federal, state and private entities, as cooperating agencies.
Implementing a recovery plan is contingent upon appropriations,
priorities, and other budgetary constraints affecting the participants. A
recovery plan may also be modified to reflect changes in the status of a
species, the completion of recovery tasks, and new findings that reflect the
latest available scientific information.

In 1982, the International Mountain Caribou Technical Committee began
preparing a management plan for the woodland caribou. FWS adopted a
revised version of this document as the official recovery plan for the
caribou in 1985. The recovery plan identified the following as cooperating
agencies in the caribou recovery effort: FWS; the Fish and Wildlife Branch
of the British Columbia Ministry of Environment (currently, the Wildlife
Branch of the Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks); the British
Columbia Forest Service (part of the Ministry of Forests); the Forest
Service (the Colville and Idaho Panhandle National Forests); the Idaho
Department of Fish and Game; the Washington Department of Game
(currently, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife); and the
University of Idaho.

In 1991, FWS appointed its own caribou recovery team to advise the agency
on caribou recovery efforts. The recovery team completed a revised
recovery plan in 1994. The revised plan identified all of the entities
identified by the initial plan as cooperators in the new plan, as well as
Washington State University and the Idaho Department of Lands. While
these agencies agreed to cooperate in carrying out the recovery plans,
resources to implement the plans are controlled by congressional
appropriations and the agencies’ budgets and priorities.

FWS’ recovery plans for the southern Selkirk Mountains woodland caribou
identified a variety of management and research actions necessary for the
species’ recovery. These included collecting information on and managing
caribou habitat, determining caribou population characteristics,
maintaining the population through various efforts to reduce caribou
mortality, and informing the public and agency personnel about caribou
and involving them in caribou management. The 1985 recovery plan also
called for assessing the feasibility of augmenting the existing population
by introducing caribou transplanted from other herds. The consensus of
the biological community at the time was that augmentation was the only
available method that could reasonably be expected to achieve the



Page 52                                    GAO/RCED-99-102 Caribou Recovery Program
Appendix II
Woodland Caribou in the Southern Selkirk
Mountains




population’s recovery. The 1994 revised recovery plan added the need to
establish a third self-sustaining herd in the state of Washington to reduce
the risk of losing caribou through a catastrophic event, such as a large fire,
and to better distribute the caribou, increase their number, and further
enhance the probability of the species’ recovery.

A recovery zone that includes the general area used by the caribou as
habitat was delineated in the initial recovery plan. It covers about 2,200
square miles and includes national forest, state, private and Canadian
lands. The recovery zone encompasses the geographic area in the southern
Selkirk Mountains where caribou management efforts are now focused.




Page 53                                    GAO/RCED-99-102 Caribou Recovery Program
Appendix III

Examples of the Recovery Program’s Tasks
and Accomplishments

               In addition to augmentation efforts, FWS’ recovery plans included a variety
               of other tasks. Generally, these tasks involved such activities as gathering
               information on managing caribou habitat, conducting research on the
               characteristics of the caribou population, endeavoring to reduce caribou
               mortality, and developing public information and education programs. The
               following illustrate some of the recovery program’s tasks and other
               accomplishments.

               Habitat Mapping: The recovery plans called for the agencies to inventory
               existing caribou habitat. Accordingly, the agencies have mapped most of
               the caribou habitat in the recovery zone. They are now focusing on
               consolidating the mapping efforts completed to date so that they can
               produce a single uniform map of the recovery zone.

               Caribou Management Units: Forest Service land, which provides the
               majority of the habitat for caribou in the United States, has been further
               divided into caribou management units. These units include all seasonally
               important habitat and provide more localized information on the
               distribution of caribou habitat within the recovery zone. FWS is attempting
               to get individual management plans developed for each caribou
               management unit to assist in long-term planning for protecting and
               improving these habitat.

               Habitat Management Guidelines: The cooperating agencies have
               developed caribou habitat management guidelines, and the Forest Service
               is using them to design timber sales in caribou habitat. These guidelines
               attempt to minimize the effects of logging on caribou and can also be used
               to develop silvicultural standards that may enhance the caribou habitat
               over the long term. Although the development of these guidelines began in
               the 1970s, they have been revised over time and were used to develop the
               most recent forest plans for the two national forests located within the
               recovery zone (the Colville and the Idaho Panhandle National Forests).
               The cooperating agencies have recognized the need to update the
               guidelines again to take into account the results of more recent research
               (see our discussion of the habitat suitability index model below).

               Efforts to Protect Habitats in British Columbia: The Ministry of
               Environment, Lands and Parks and the Ministry of Forests have
               undertaken efforts to protect caribou habitat in the British Columbia
               portion of the recovery zone. These efforts include planning timber
               harvests to minimize their impact on caribou habitat, establishing a
               land-use planning process that resulted in guidelines for the retention of



               Page 54                                GAO/RCED-99-102 Caribou Recovery Program
Appendix III
Examples of the Recovery Program’s Tasks
and Accomplishments




an old-growth forest in a high-priority caribou habitat, and protecting
additional caribou habitat in a recently established provincial park and
wildlife management area. The Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks
is also developing a comprehensive mountain caribou management
strategy for British Columbia. This strategy will address the viability of,
threats to, and habitat conditions needed for maintaining all populations of
caribou in British Columbia, including the southern Selkirk population.

Research: A substantial amount of research has been completed on
various aspects of woodland caribou ecology. According to FWS, the results
of this research have helped tailor recovery efforts to the specific needs of
the species. For example, the National Ecology Research Center
conducted a series of research projects that focused primarily on issues
related to the mountain caribou’s early winter habitat and diet. Early
winter habitat is believed to be the most critical seasonal habitat for
caribou because they begin a major shift in their diet during the onset of
early winter, as plants age and early snows decrease the availability and
ease of harvesting plants. The National Ecology Research Center effort
also included research on caribou genetics, late winter caribou foraging
ecology, and the ecotype response and habitat use of transplanted caribou.
These projects included field studies and resulted in the publication of
numerous peer-reviewed reports and articles. The reports that resulted
from this research effort are summarized in appendix I. Other completed
research on caribou has addressed the population characteristics,
seasonal habitat use and food habitat of the resident southern Selkirk
caribou population, as well as the seasonal habitat use of transplanted
caribou. British Columbia has also invested extensively in research on the
characteristics of other mountain caribou herds in the province.

Habitat Suitability Index Model: Information gained from tracking
transplanted and resident caribou, as well as research on their use of
seasonal habitat, has been used to draft a habitat suitability index model.
This model can be used to rate the suitability of caribou habitat during a
given season by taking into account such variables as elevation, slope,
type of tree cover, percentage of forest canopy closure, and the age of the
uppermost canopy of the forest. According to FWS, the model will be used
to revise the agency’s habitat management guidelines and will allow for
more accurate and predictable timber management in the recovery zone.

Caribou Census Technique: The Idaho Department of Fish and Game has
developed a technique that is used to estimate the number of caribou in
the southern Selkirk Mountains, even though some caribou are not fitted



Page 55                                    GAO/RCED-99-102 Caribou Recovery Program
Appendix III
Examples of the Recovery Program’s Tasks
and Accomplishments




with radio collars. The census has two phases. In the first phase, a
fixed-wing aircraft survey is performed to determine the distribution of
caribou from tracks made in the snow or animal sightings. In the second
phase, a helicopter census is taken to count and classify the caribou. The
census, which has been performed since 1991, provides the most accurate
available accounting of the overall caribou population. The census is
conducted in the winter (Feb.-Apr.) when caribou are at higher elevations
and in open-canopy forests.

Information and Education: To better inform the public about the
endangered southern Selkirk Mountains caribou and gain support for
recovery efforts, the recovery plans called for various information and
education efforts. For example, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game
sponsored an “Adopt-a-Caribou” program that allowed school children to
name and monitor the location of transplanted caribou. The Washington
Department of Fish and Wildlife has also developed an Internet Web site
that provides general information on the southern Selkirk caribou and the
progress of Washington’s augmentation efforts. It also includes a
“Track-a-Caribou” feature that provides middle and high school students
with opportunities to monitor the movements of transplanted caribou and
the success of the recovery program. Other informational and educational
efforts include a slide series and video describing caribou ecology and
management, newspaper and magazine articles, and presentations in local
communities to children and adults. The International Mountain Caribou
Technical Committee also serves as a forum for disseminating information
on the caribou.

Law Enforcement: Law enforcement efforts conducted by U.S., state, and
Canadian agencies have included the distribution of identification cards
and pamphlets to hunters so that they will be better able to identify and
not accidentally kill caribou. Other efforts have included discussing
caribou identification, natural history, and management with hunters, as
well as placing signs in caribou habitat warning hunters that caribou may
be present. In addition, patrols to enforce a ban on the use of snowmobiles
in caribou habitat have been instituted to protect caribou. Enforcement
efforts focusing on illegal caribou mortality have also led to the successful
prosecution of some offenders.




Page 56                                    GAO/RCED-99-102 Caribou Recovery Program
Appendix IV

Comments From the Department of the
Interior

Note: GAO comments
supplementing those in the
report text appear at the
end of this appendix.




Now on pp. 11 and 34.
See comment 1.




                             Page 57   GAO/RCED-99-102 Caribou Recovery Program
               Appendix IV
               Comments From the Department of the
               Interior




               The following are GAO’s comments on the Department of the Interior’s
GAO Comments   letter dated April 14, 1999.

               1. We revised the report as suggested.




               Page 58                                  GAO/RCED-99-102 Caribou Recovery Program
Appendix V

Comments From the Department of
Agriculture’s Forest Service




             Page 59       GAO/RCED-99-102 Caribou Recovery Program
Appendix VI

Comments From the British Columbia
Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks

Note: GAO comments
supplementing those in the
report text appear at the
end of this appendix.




See comment 1.




Now on p. 19.
See comment 2.




See comment 3.




                             Page 60   GAO/RCED-99-102 Caribou Recovery Program
                 Appendix VI
                 Comments From the British Columbia
                 Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks




See comment 4.




                 Page 61                                    GAO/RCED-99-102 Caribou Recovery Program
               Appendix VI
               Comments From the British Columbia
               Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks




               The following are GAO’s comments on the Ministry of Environment, Lands
GAO Comments   and Parks’ letter dated April 8, 1999.

               1. We included the Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks’ concerns
               about the modest gains of the caribou recovery program in the Agency
               Comments section of the report.

               2. Our reference to 57-percent caribou mortality refers to the percentage of
               caribou transplanted to the southern Selkirks (59 of 103) that are known
               to have died. We added the Ministry’s view that annual adult mortality
               rates in excess of 15 percent are high, its statement that recent estimates
               of adult mortality suggest that the annual mortality rate is higher than this,
               and its concern about the need to identify and address the cause of this
               high mortality.

               3. We added the Ministry’s priorities for caribou recovery in the southern
               Selkirk Mountains to the report.

               4. We included the issues that the Ministry raised about the availability of
               caribou for transplant to the United States in the report.




               Page 62                                    GAO/RCED-99-102 Caribou Recovery Program
Appendix VII

Comments From the Washington
Department of Fish and Wildlife

Note: GAO comments
supplementing those in the
report text appear at the
end of this appendix.




See comment 1.




Now on p. 18.
See comment 2.




Now on p. 23.
See comment 3.




                             Page 63   GAO/RCED-99-102 Caribou Recovery Program
               Appendix VII
               Comments From the Washington
               Department of Fish and Wildlife




               The following are GAO’s comments on Washington Department of Fish and
GAO Comments   Wildlife’s letter received April 7, 1999.

               1. We revised the report to include information on the two ecotypes of
               woodland caribou.

               2. The map of caribou release sites has been revised and now includes all
               four release sites.

               3. We revised the report to note the title of the action plan.




               Page 64                                 GAO/RCED-99-102 Caribou Recovery Program
Appendix VIII

Major Contributors to This Report


                        Ned Smith
Resources,              Jim Yeager
Community, and
Economic
Development
Division, Washington,
D.C.
                        Robert B. Arthur
Portland, Oregon        William K. Garber
                        Tim R. Schindler




(141236)                Page 65             GAO/RCED-99-102 Caribou Recovery Program
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