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Protecting Wolverines in the Lower-48

AY Images / iStockphoto

Case Overview

The wolverine, the largest terrestrial member of the weasel family, is among the rarest mammals in the lower-48 states and faces severe threats from habitat fragmentation and disturbance, trapping, and global warming.

Nevertheless, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in March 2008 rejected a petition to protect the wolverine under the Endangered Species Act. In so doing, the FWS cited the presence of wolverines in Canada and Alaska as a justification for refusing to protect the last remaining wolverines in the lower-48 states. This approach by FWS represented a stark departure from past Endangered Species Act listings of such species as the grizzly bear, the wolf, and the bald eagle in the lower-48 states despite the persistence of these species in Canada and Alaska.

Earthjustice, representing nine conservation groups, sued FWS in September 2008 to ensure that the wolverine is protected in the lower-48 states as Congress intended.

Related Features

Keeping the Wolverine Wild

After more than a decade of litigation, the federal government has finally proposed to protect wolverines as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. Down to Earth speaks with Douglas H. Chadwick, a wildlife biologist and journalist who wrote the book The Wolverine Way.

Winning One for the Wolverine

Managing Attorney Tim Preso isn’t likely to square off against a grizzly bear—as wolverines do—but he’s figured out how to use the persistence and determination of a wolverine to keep it from going extinct in the continental United States.

Case Updates

May 17, 2013 | In the News: Great Falls Tribune

End wolverine trapping in Montana

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.

February 7, 2013 | In the News: National Parks Traveler

Wolverine proposed for listing as a threatened species

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.

February 5, 2013 | Blog Post

Attorney Persevered Like A Wolverine To Protect Them

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.

April 21, 2011 | Blog Post

Saving Our Wild Places: Protecting the Wolverine

(This is the fourth 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. Earthjustice is currently working to protect several wild creatures in the Crown like the wolverine. To learn more about this wild place and how Earthjustice is working to protect it, check out our Crown web feature.)

April 18, 2011 | Blog Post

Saving Our Wild Places: Earthjustice's Tim Preso

(This is the first in a series of Q & A's on the Crown of the Continent, a 10-million-acre expanse of land that stretches from Northern Montana into Canada. Over the past decade, Tim Preso has spearheaded Earthjustice's work to protect this untouched wilderness. To learn more about the Crown and how Earthjustice is working to protect it, check out our Crown web feature.)

EJ: How did Earthjustice became involved in protecting the Crown?