The U.S. Border Patrol recently agreed to delay reconstruction of a road in grizzly bear habitat near the U.S.-Canadian Border in northern Idaho. The Idaho Conservation League, Center for Biological Diversity, WildEarth Guardians, the Lands Council, and the Selkirk Conservation Alliance filed a lawsuit in March to halt the infamous Bog Creek Road Project.
The Border Patrol agreed to delay reconstruction until May 2021, which provides time for the lawsuit to be reviewed by a federal judge.
Plans to rebuild the Bog Creek Road were approved by the Border Patrol and the U.S. Forest Service in January. The Border Patrol insists that it needs access to the road to prevent illegal border crossings. However, the agency has provided no evidence or statistics of illegal border crossings in this remote and overgrown area.
The Bog Creek Road is located in an area frequented by grizzly bears. It was closed in the early 1980s to improve habitat for grizzly bears and aid in the recovery of the Selkirk Mountains grizzly population. The road has since reverted to nature and is overgrown with trees and vegetation. It is the only road that crossed the Selkirk Mountains between Schweitzer Mountain Resort and the Canadian Border.
An environmental impact statement released in 2019 suggests that the project will improve conditions for grizzly bears, but that is not the case. To compensate for the loss of grizzly bear habitat, the Border Patrol and the Forest Service propose to close other roads in the area. However, the roads that the agencies chose to “close” are already impassable. No additional grizzly bear habitat would be created. In fact, the net result is a loss of grizzly bear habitat.
The Selkirk grizzly bear population was added to the Endangered Species List in 1975. The expansion of roads in grizzly bear habitat undermines recovery efforts. Successful recovery will require reasonable limits on motorized access in key grizzly bear habitats such as Bog Creek.