Feds taking a second look at endangered species protection for wolverines   2 comments

October 18, 2016 By Michael Wright Chronicle Staff Writer

 

 

 

A wolverine passes through an alpine meadow near Logan Pass on Aug. 3, 2012, in Glacier National Park.BEN PIERCE/CHRONICLE

Federal officials are taking another look at whether wolverines deserve protection under the Endangered Species Act, months after a federal judge ordered them to do so.

This week, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service opened a 30-day public comment period on the idea of listing the wolverine as a threatened species under the law, a move intended to keep the species from reaching the brink of extinction.

The move comes six months after a federal judge sided with environmental groups in a suit over the USFWS decision to withdraw a 2013 proposal to list the wolverine. The judge ordered the agency to reconsider protections for the wolverines as soon as possible. A USFWS appeal of the decision was withdrawn earlier this month.

Opening a comment period kicks off a new environmental review process, where the agency will try to determine whether the animal should be listed. A final decision is expected in 2018.

USFWS spokeswoman Serena Baker said the agency would begin assessing the status of wolverines and that they are looking for any data the public might have about the animal and the impacts of climate change.

She said the agency will “really take an honest look at the science and let the science lead us.”

Andrea Santarsiere, a senior attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity, said the review timeline is too long and that the wolverine needs protections as soon as possible.

“The idea of undertaking a two-year review is non-practical and certainly not what the court envisioned,” said Santarsiere, a senior attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service did not return a call requesting comment.

Wolverines, carnivores in the weasel family, are believed to number only about 300 in the lower 48. They are known to be in Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Washington and Oregon but are hard to find because they don’t live in large groups and range far.

The animal depends on snow to survive. Female wolverines need at least 5 feet of stable snow to build birthing dens, USFWS says. The deep snow offers security for young wolverines and can help the animals withstand frigid winter temperatures.

Environmentalists worry that warming temperatures and decreasing snowpacks caused by climate change are diminishing the animal’s available habitat, which is one reason they would like to see them protected as an endangered species.

USFWS proposed listing the animal as threatened in early 2013. But a year later, the USFWS withdrew the listing proposal. A post on the agency’s website said it found “the effects of climate change are not likely to place the wolverine in danger of extinction now or in the foreseeable future.”

The Center for Biological diversity, Defenders of Wildlife and a litany of other groups challenged the withdrawal in court. In April, U.S. District Court Judge Dana Christensen sided with the groups, calling the USFWS’ withdrawal of the listing proposal “arbitrary and capricious.”

“No greater level of certainty is needed to see the writing on the wall for this snow-dependent species standing squarely in the path of global climate change,” Christensen wrote.

He added later that the USFWS needed to take action at the “earliest possible, defensible point in time to protect against the loss of biodiversity within our reach as a nation.”

Santarsiere said that means the agency should take final action much sooner than two years from now, adding that it “seems nonsensical to not protect these animals.”

Baker said the agency needs the time so they can use the best available science in its final decision.

Comments can be submitted at regulations.gov. The docket number for the proposal is FWS-R6-ES-2016-0106.

Michael Wright can be reached at mwright@dailychronicle.com or at 582-2638. Follow him on Twitter @mj_wright1.

2 responses to “Feds taking a second look at endangered species protection for wolverines

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  1. Frankly, I’m very surprised that this isn’t listed as an endangered species already.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi John! As I have done “some” research regarding wolverines, I have found that different countries classify them differently. As of February 2013 the United States Fish and Wildlife Service proposed giving Endangered Species Act protections to the wolverine due to its winter habitat in the northern Rockies diminishing. This was as a result of a lawsuit brought by the Center for Biological Diversity and Defenders of Wildlife, More facts to be found here:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wolverine (if at all interested). In Sweden the wolverine is protected by law since 1969 – no hunting!

    Like

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