Under a legal settlement signed today, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will reconsider whether to add the wolverine population in the lower-48 states to the list of species protected by the Endangered Species Act. The new listing determination is due by December 2010, and will follow an updated status review on the wolverine — a rare alpine scavenger that still survives in remote areas of the Rocky Mountains and Pacific Northwest.
Today’s court settlement was in response to legal action brought by a coalition of wildlife groups nationwide, challenging a March 11, 2008 decision by the Bush administration that determined wolverines do not need protection in the U.S. since healthy populations exist in Canada. This decision was at odds with the protections provided to other transboundary wildlife, including wolves, grizzly bears and bald eagles.
“The wolverine is one of the rarest mammals in the lower-48 states and faces a host of threats ranging from habitat disruption to trapping to global warming,” said Tim Preso of Earthjustice, the organization representing the wildlife groups. “We are pleased the wolverine will get another chance now that a new administration has taken over the federal wildlife agency.”
In its revised wolverine status review the Fish and Wildlife Service will consider new scientific information about the projected effects of climate change on the Rocky Mountains and Northwest. The wolverine’s range closely correlates with areas that maintain spring snowpack, which provides shelter for female wolverines to birth and raise their young until they are weaned in May. Human-induced climate change is expected to reduce spring snowpack in the western mountains, which may significantly reduce wolverine habitat. The lower-48 wolverine population is also threatened by trapping, human disturbance, and fragmentation of their alpine habitat.
“This is one more important step to right the wrongs of the Bush administration when it comes to being responsible stewards of America’s precious natural heritage,” said David Gaillard, Rocky Mountain Representative of Defenders of Wildlife.
“The wolverine is a symbol of ferocious independence and shouldn’t be allowed to go extinct in the U.S. just because they still survive in Canada,” said Noah Greenwald, biodiversity program director for the Center for Biological Diversity. “Like the polar bear, pika and many other species, the wolverine needs the protection of the Endangered Species Act if it is to survive global climate change.”
Earthjustice signed the legal settlement on behalf of Defenders of Wildlife, Center for Biological Diversity, Conservation Northwest, Friends of the Clearwater, Greater Yellowstone Coalition, Idaho Conservation League, Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance, Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center and Wyoming Outdoor Council.
Read the settlement agreement (PDF)