The wolverine is generally intolerant of human disturbance in its habitat. Its presence in a area signifies untrammeled, uncompromised wilderness. This lawsuit asked a federal court to overturn the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's refusal to consider new legal protections for the wolverine.
In October 2006, a federal judged ruled that the FWS wrongly rejected scientific information regarding the wolverine that "shows a dramatic loss in range, the tangible decrease in population with the commensurate threat of genetic isolation of subpopulations, and the threat posed by human encroachment on wolverines."
Following a lawsuit by Earthjustice, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is considering granting threatened species protections to the wolverine. In Montana, the state’s Fish, Wildlife and Parks Department has declared it will resist any lawsuit that would ban the trapping of wolverines, a practice that can severely threaten the species’ ability to sustain itself. Wolverines, solitary and far-ranging animals, are already a rare sight in the region.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed federal protections for wolverines in the Rocky Mountains in anticipation of severe habitat loss due to climate change, which could melt enough snow and ice to make two thirds of their current habitat uninhabitable. Wolverines in the United States are already rare and warrant federal protection under the Endangered Species Act.
Last Friday, the federal government proposed to protect wolverines as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. Wolverines are the biggest member of the weasel, mink, marten and otter family, but they don’t act like good family members—they are loners who cover huge ranges usually high in mountain ranges above tree line up in the rock, ice and snow.
(This is the third in a series of Q & A's on the Crown of the Continent, a 10-million acre expanse of land in northern Montana and southern Canada. Gene Sentz is co-founder of the Friends of the Rocky Mountain Front, one of the organizations whose activism resulted in the banning of oil and gas leasing in the Front. To learn more about this wild place and how Earthjustice is working to protect it, check out our Crown web feature.