Montana Public Radio

Caribou Rainforest: From Heartbreak to Hope

Jan 9, 2019

Caribou Rainforest: From Heartbreak to Hope

In a little-known North American rainforest lives a reclusive animal more commonly associated with the Arctic. The mountain caribou exists on the edge of extinction—a dire situation that offers us the gift of understanding how we, as humans, affect even the most remote places on the planet and that our personal, political, and environmental choices matter. 

The few remaining mountain caribou herds are found only in western Canada and the Northwest region of the continental United States, where they move between alpine habitat and pockets of inland rainforest. Caribou Rainforest doesn’t tell an easy story, or pretend that there are simple solutions to the future of these dwindling herds. Instead, through intimate photographs, noteworthy scientific discoveries, and a deeply personal story, it explains why this is happening so that we can preserve this place for all the creatures that call it home, for the people whose lives and cultures are tied to it, and for other natural landscapes facing similar challenges balancing economy and ecology.

Author David Moskowitz has tracked, studied, and photographed these caribou extensively in order to understand and communicate their plight. He doesn’t identify a lone villain, but rather describes how climate change, settler colonialism, industrial logging, mineral extraction, predators, recreationists, and a confluence of factors have worked against this fragile species and the vulnerable environment upon which it relies.

The story of this emblematic animal and stunning landscape encompasses shifting conservation challenges and tactics in the twenty-first century. Mountain caribou have been identified as an “umbrella species” by conservationists, meaning that protecting their habitat helps preserve many other species who depend on the same ecosystem. From upending the region’s forest economy to limiting recreational access to critical habitat, to respecting the rights of indigenous peoples, to exterminating wolves—creatures that also struggle to survive in this environment—the issues are complicated and contentious, but the opportunity to craft solutions still exists.

If we lose the caribou, Moskowitz makes a strong case to not give up, and to protect what remains of this rare rainforest ecosystem. In Caribou Rainforest, the author searches for lessons that can transform despair into hope—and become catalysts for charting a new way forward as we strive to balance human needs with preserving the diversity of the natural world.

About the Author:

David Moskowitz
Credit Sarah Rice

A professional wildlife tracker, photographer, and educator based in northcentral Washington State, David Moskowitz is the photographer and author of two other books, Wildlife of the Pacific Northwest and Wolves in the Land of Salmon. His photography and writing have appeared in numerous other books and publications. David holds a bachelor’s degree in environmental studies and outdoor education from Prescott College. Certified as a track and sign specialist, trailing specialist, and senior tracker through CyberTracker Conservation, he is an evaluator for this rigorous international professional certification program.

David has contributed his technical expertise to a wide variety of wildlife studies regionally, focusing on using tracking and other noninvasive methods to study wildlife ecology and promote conservation. He helped establish the Citizen Wildlife Monitoring Project, a citizen science effort to search for and monitor rare and sensitive wildlife in the Pacific Northwest. Find out more about David’s work at

In 2015 David founded the Mountain Caribou Initiative, a visual storytelling project that highlights conservation challenges and opportunities in the Caribou Rainforest. He also produced the documentary film Last Stand: The Vanishing Caribou Rainforest. Images, video, and reporting from this project have appeared in print, digital, and broadcast media in North America and Europe. Learn more at