The US Fish & Wildlife Service’s proposal to give wolverines the less-protective “threatened” status and failure to designate critical habitat ignore the scientific evidence and fall short of what is necessary to avoid extinction
Helena, MT–(ENEWSPF)–May 1, 2013. Today, the Western Environmental Law Center (WELC) called on the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (Service) to provide greater protections for the wolverine, the rarest carnivore in the Lower 48. WELC’s comments, signed by 25 conservation groups from across the wolverine’s range in the West, were submitted as part of the public comment process on the Service’s proposed rule to federally protect wolverine under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).
On February 1, 2013, the Service, in response to a court ordered deadline, to list wolverine as a “threatened” species under the ESA due primarily to the loss of habitat and increased habitat fragmentation from climate change (wolverine depend on late spring snow). Additional threats to the species include an exceptionally small and vulnerable population size in the Lower 48 – where the entire population is no more than 250-300 individuals – and mortality from trapping.
“We are supportive of the Service’s long-overdue proposal to protect wolverine under the ESA. It’s a huge step in the right direction,” said WELC’s Matthew Bishop, attorney and lead author of the comments. “That said, the proposed rule does not go far enough to ensure the long-term survival and recovery of the species,” added Bishop. “Wolverines are already extinct in major geographical areas that were historically occupied by the species, and are on the verge in other areas. They’re endangered, and only the full force of the ESA will enable them to avoid extinction in the Lower 48,” he concluded.
WELC’s comments identify a number of specific concerns with the Service’s proposed rule. These include: (1) the determination that wolverines do not qualify for the more protective “endangered” status – only “threatened” status; (2) the exemption of potential non-climate stressors on wolverine, including habitat loss or disruption from motorized recreational activities (e.g. winter snowmobiling), logging, and infrastructure development, from regulation under the ESA; and (3) the decision to delay designating critical habitat.
In addition to WELC, the comments were signed by the following 25 organizations:
Lands Council, Montana Ecosystem Defense Council, Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center, George Wuerthner, Hunters for Predators, WildEarth Guardians, Native Ecosystems Council, Western Wildlife Conservancy, Selkirk Conservation Alliance, Alliance for the Wild Rockies, Kootenai Environmental Alliance, Wildlands CPR, WildWest Institute, Friends of the Wild Swan, Footloose Montana, the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), Hells Canyon Preservation Council, Swan View Coalition, Cascadia Wildlands, Gifford Pinchot Task Force, Oregon Wild, Helena Hunters and Anglers Association, Friends of the Bitterroot, Cabinet Resource Group, Wildlands Network, and Conservation Northwest.