The Caribou issue in northern Idaho and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service’s efforts to “designate” more habitat for the animal is not going away.
Not only is this a big issue for the local economies in northern Idaho but for those of
us who like to snowmobile in that area.
We here at SnoWest Magazine
just received a couple of documents relating to the latest news and analysis on
the issue. One document is “A Critical Review of ‘Economic Analysis of Critical
Habitat Designation for the Southern Selkirk Mountains Population of Woodland
Caribou’ by Industrial Economics Inc., for the US Fish and Wildlife Service
(see attached PDF) and the other was titled, “Proposed Woodland Caribou Habitat
Designation in Idaho Estimated Local Economic Effects” by Forest Econ, Inc.
The executive summary for that latter document reads:
“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposes designating a
large acreage in the Selkirk Mountains as
critical endangered species habitat for woodland caribou. Most of the local
economic effects of this are negative and have already started to occur. These
include: winter recreation reductions (particularly motorized); winter logging
constraints; reduced infrastructure development and silvicultural activities on
federal, state and private forests within the proposed boundaries; and reduced
timber harvest on those same lands.
“Recreation and tourism impacts of potential caribou
habitat listing began when winter recreation opportunities were threatened by
potential use restrictions. The 2005 injunction has already changed the winter
recreation economy of Boundary and Bonner
formalization into designated critical habitat should add changes in the
operations of state and private timberlands within the proposed boundary to the
tourism effects that are already occurring.
“The recreation opportunity change impacts have been most
significant in the area around Priest
Lake. The Priest Lake
economy is very narrowly based; focused almost exclusively on providing goods
and services for recreation and tourism. The loss of winter jobs was calculated
using two different methods. The first was the most conservative as it was
based on abstract estimations of snowmobile use changes. It estimated 24 winter
jobs lost representing 8.1 percent of total employment. The second was based on
field surveys of actual transaction changes and is probably more accurate. It
estimated 76 winter job loses, or 25.7 percent of total local employment.
Lake winter economy may
be close to a “tipping point” where it will no longer be profitable for
businesses to stay open in the winter. If winter recreation, the only basic
industry, continues to decline, the winter economy could shut down entirely.
Loss of winter income potential in turn threatens the year-round viability of
most service businesses.
“Tourism changes are also apparent in other areas.
Snowmobile related spending has already contracted to the point where there is
little left of the pre-injunction “winter snowmobile economy.” Regional
snowmobile dealers have declined from 13 to 3, local motels have stopped
advertising to snowmobilers and snowmobile rentals are no longer available.
Across the North Idaho regional economy, the
total recreational effect is loss of 894 jobs and $21.5 million in earnings.
Further restrictions and declines would have less impact on other recreation
communities in Bonner and Boundary
Counties. Their tourism
sector is more diverse and resilient, plus many of the effects are dispersed up
the trade hierarchy. Sandpoint and Coeur
d’Alene have also lost snowmobile sector jobs and
income, but their economies are even more diverse and resilient.
sector changes should come from increasing access restriction that affects
harvests and management on 80.6 thousand acres of state and private timberland
within the proposed boundaries. The direct employment effect could be about 46
logging and trucking jobs, concentrated mostly in the vicinity of Priest Lake.
The total effect of this could be a regional employment loss of 126 jobs and
$4.6 million of earnings with the indirect and induced components spread over
most of North Idaho. Further log supply
constraints have two interesting side effects: (1) the loss of 3.8 million/year
to the Idaho School Endowment Fund and (2) a regional log price increase that
inhibits local wood manufacturing firms in their attempt to recover from the
caribou habitat designation economic effects are mostly negative. Combining the
recreation and timber effects at the North Idaho
regional level generates an aggregate employment effect reducing employment by
1,020 jobs. Lost earnings total $26.1 million/year. In absolute terms, these
effects appear large, but they represent only 2 percent of the whole North Idaho economy. These estimates are conservative
because they do not include effects that accrue in the northeastern Washington regional
“We found few local positive effects of designation. The
caribou inhabitation of the habitat is seasonal and future recreational viewing
potentials limited by access constraint, remote location, and minor evidence of
public interest. There are far better places to view Caribou than the Selkirk Mountains. Other positive job gains are perverse,
and their gains would actually be considered costs in a cost-benefit framework.
These include increased agency management, law enforcement and wildfire risk
The entire document was too long to include here.
However, here are a few past stories we ran on