The Selkirk population of grizzly bears in northern Idaho was listed as “threatened” in 1983. Research shows that high densities of roads and motorized trails effectively reduce available grizzly bear habitat. The U.S. Forest Service used this research to set limits on motorized access within the Selkirk Recovery Zone and, as a result, the population has grown modestly from about 20 to 80 bears.
A project proposed by the Border Patrol on Forest Service lands near the Canadian Border threatens to set back recovery efforts in the Selkirks. One of the roads that the Forest Service closed in the 1980s to help recover the population is known as Bog Creek Road. Now, the Border Patrol contends that the road must be cleared of trees and vegetation and rebuilt so that the agency can patrol the region. However, the Border Patrol has refused to demonstrate that illegal activities are occurring in this steep, mountainous area.
How could the reconstruction of one road be such a big deal when it comes to grizzly bear recovery in the Selkirks? The Bog Creek Road is the only road that crosses the mountain range from east to west between Sandpoint and the Canadian Border. Reopening the road could effectively separate grizzly bears north and south of the road, reducing migration and gene flow.
This particular bear management unit also accounts for approximately 25% of all grizzly bear habitat use on the U.S. side of the Selkirk Mountains. Increasing motorized access to the area would displace grizzly bears and reduce available habitat.
A final decision to approve the project is expected in the next few months. ICL will then decide whether or not to take legal action to ensure the continued recovery of grizzly bears in the Selkirk Mountains.