Selkirk and Cabinet-Yaak Ecosystems

The Selkirk Mountain Ecosystem includes approximately 2,200 square miles of northeastern Washington, northern Idaho and southern British Columbia, Canada. Approximately 1,040 square miles of this area is within British Columbia, Canada. Within the United States portion of the ecosystem, the Colville and Idaho Panhandle National Forests, and the Idaho Department of Lands administer public lands. The Selkirk ecosystem is fairly well defined by geographical boundaries, which includes the Selkirk Mountains bounded by Kootenay Lake and the Kootenai River on the north and east, and the Salmo and Pend Oreille Rivers on the west and south. There are currently believed to be at least 70-80 grizzly bears in the Selkirk Recovery Zone with numbers approximately equally divided between the Canadian and U.S. portions of the ecosystems.

The Cabinet–Yaak Ecosystem encompasses approximately 1,000 square miles in the Yaak River drainage and 1,620 square miles in the Cabinet Mountains. The ecosystem is bisected by the Kootenai River, with the Cabinet Mountains to the south and the Yaak River area to the north. The degree of movement between these two portions is unknown, but no radio-collared bears have moved from one portion to the other. Approximately 90% of the area is public land administered by the Kootenai and Idaho Panhandle National Forests. South of the Kootenai River, the Cabinet Mountains Wilderness Area encompasses 147 square miles of the ecosystem with elevations ranging from 3,000 feet to 8,738 feet atop Snowshoe Peak. There are currently believed to be at least 40 grizzly bears in the Cabinet-Yaak Recovery Zone.

The area has a Pacific maritime climate characterized by short, warm summers and heavy, wet winter snowfalls. A variety of tree species, including ponderosa pine, grand and mountain firs, western red cedar, western hemlock, western larch, mountain hemlock, and spruces, can be found throughout the recovery zones. Stands of mixed deciduous trees intermingle with riparian shrub fields and wet meadows along major drainages. Huckleberry and mixed shrub fields are partly created as a result of wildfires and other disturbance events. While higher elevations and steeper slopes characterize the Cabinet Mountains, much of the topography in the Yaak and the Selkirk’s is varied, from rugged alpine peaks to the more rounded peaks that cover most of the remaining area.

The Selkirk/Cabinet-Yaak subcommittee meets biannually to coordinate grizzly bear recovery efforts. Management agencies, including the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, U.S. Forest Service, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks and Idaho Department of Fish & Game, in cooperation with many non-governmental organizations. The subcommittee continues to take action to increase public awareness of garbage and sanitation issues, black bear/grizzly bear identification, and to reduce human-caused grizzly bear mortality throughout both ecosystems.

You can find more information about both the Selkirk and Cabinet-Yaak ecosystems on the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s Grizzly Bear Recovery page. On this page you will find links to the Federal Register announcement of the “Initiation of 5-Year Reviews of Seven Wildlife Species and Two Plant Species in the Mountain-Prairie Region,” and the “Species Assessment and Listing Priority Assignment Form.” On the Selkirk Ecosystem page you can find “Demographics and Population Trends of Grizzly Bears in the Cabinet-Yaak and Selkirk Ecosystems of British Columbia, Idaho, Montana, and Washington” by Wayne Wakkinen and Wayne Kasworm. On the Cabinet-Yaak Ecosystem page you can find the “Non-Jeopardy Biological Opinion Issued by the USFWS for Proposed Rock Creek Mine.”

For up-to-date Selkirk and Cabinet-Yaak information, visit the Meeting Calendar  page, or download these documents: the 3-year Selkirk & Cabinet-Yaak Grizzly Bear Ecosystems Plan (2015-2017)3-year Selkirk & Cabinet-Yaak Grizzly Bear Ecosystems Plan (2015-2017), and the 2016 Fall Cabinet-Yaak and Selkirk Mountains Grizzly Bear Ecosystems Update.

Selkirk/Cabinet-Yaak Subcommittee