Wolverines are decreasing in numbers, but a lawsuit alleges the government will not protect them under ESA.
The wolverine, which looks like a little bear, is critically endangered. According to the Center for Biological Diversity, fewer than 300 people live in the lower 48 low-population states in Idaho, Montana, Washington, Wyoming, and Oregon. A coalition of wildlife conservation groups made up of Wildlife Defenders, the Idaho Conservation League, the Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance, the Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center, the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, the Sierra Club and Rocky Mountain Wild, has brought a lawsuit against the fish and the federal government’s Wildlife Service filed its decision not to protect the mammal under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).
The government’s decision “will hinder the conservation efforts needed to prevent species extinction due to climate change, habitat fragmentation and lack of genetic diversity,” the lawsuit said. ESA is subject to the Department of Commerce’s Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Sea Fisheries Service.
Photo by Vincent van Zalinge on Unsplash
A petition to accept wolverines was filed in 2000, and seven years later the Fish and Wildlife Service announced that it would review its status. In the past two decades since this petition was circulated, the Fish and Wildlife Service has faced five lawsuits – two for inaction and three for “lack of science” for refusing to protect wolverines, Katie Bilodeau said , Attorney for Idaho-based conservation group Friends of Clearwater added, “In each lawsuit, the court found the government’s decision unlawful or the agency chose not to defend its decision.”
The government considered classifying the animal as “threatened” in 2013 but changed its mind only a month later, stating that “the species is not facing any immediate threat due to climate change. New research and analysis shows that wolverine populations in the American Northwest remain stable. “
“The wolverine is a known tough creature that does not withdraw from anything, but even the wolverine cannot overcome climate change on its own,” argued Amanda Galvan, an attorney for nonprofit environmental rights group Earthjustice. “To survive, wolverines need the protection that only the Endangered Species Act can offer.”
“In addition, wolverine populations are at risk from traps and human disturbance,” the lawsuit said, which alleges the federal agency did not use “the best scientific information available” in making its decision. It is requested that the Fish and Wildlife Service “release a new definitive listing within six months” in the hope that it will not take another seven years to review its status.
“We stand by our decision to withdraw the listing proposal,” said a statement by the federal service that triggered the lawsuit. “The best science available shows that the factors affecting wolverine populations are not as significant as thought in 2013 when the US Fish and Wildlife Service proposed listing wolverines found in the adjacent United States as threatened. New research and analysis shows that wolverine populations in the American Northwest remain stable, with individuals moving in both directions across the Canadian border and returning to former areas. The species therefore does not meet the definition of threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act. “
The government’s refusal to protect wolverines triggers a lawsuit before conservation groups
Endangered Species Act Overview