MISSOULA, Mountain.– In a victory for wolverines, a Montana district court ruled late Thursday to restore the species as a candidate for protection under the Endangered Species Act. The court agreed with conservation groups that wolverines need additional protections while the US Fish and Wildlife Service reconsiders its 2020 decision not to protect the species as threatened or endangered.
“The Wolverine deserves protection under the Endangered Species Act, and this is a step to ensure the species does not suffer further harm before it happens,” Amanda said. Galvan, associate attorney in the Northern Rockies office of Earthjustice. “The FWS has previously ignored key studies that illustrate the threats the wolverine continues to face due to global warming. By examining a fuller picture of the species’ circumstances, we hope the agency will identify the need for protections increased.
“Wolverines desperately needed this good news, but it’s time to follow the science and finally give them the vital protections of the Endangered Species Act,” said Carnivore Conservation Director Collette Adkins. at the Center for Biological Diversity. “With wolverines facing serious threats like climate change and habitat loss, the Fish and Wildlife Service can’t waste any more time.”
As a candidate species, the wolverine will receive certain protections under the Endangered Species Act. Federal agencies should discuss with the Service any actions they take that may harm wolverines. The health and safety of wolverines and their habitat must also be considered in planning decisions that could destroy or degrade their critical habitat.
“The wolverine is a test case. How to protect snow-dependent species in the age of climate change? said Joseph Vaile of the KS Wild conservation group in southern Oregon. “One thing is certain. Without federal protections, this majestic species will be another victim of climate change.
“This decision is a victory for wolverines, paving the way for desperately needed protections,” said Jonathan Proctor, Rockies and Plains program director at Defenders of Wildlife. “With the protections of the Endangered Species Act, the wolverine might finally have a chance at survival.”
“The Fish and Wildlife Service has been dragging its feet for far too long,” said Brad Smith, northern Idaho director for the Idaho Conservation League. “It is time to protect wolverines and develop a recovery plan that prevents the extinction of these amazing animals.”
“Wolverines face significant threats from a warming climate, shrinking snow cover and increasingly fragmented habitat,” said Dave Werntz, director of science and conservation at Conservation Northwest. “Endangered Species Act protections help focus resources and action to ensure wolverines have a future in wild western landscapes.”
“Today’s decision gives us hope that wolverines could once again roam Colorado’s high country,” said Megan Mueller, conservation biologist at Rocky Mountain Wild. “Wolverines need Endangered Species Act protection to return to Colorado, where a snowy, high-altitude habitat could help these elusive and fascinating animals survive in the face of climate change.”
Conservation groups filed a complaint in December 2020 to challenge the Service’s decision to suspend Endangered Species Act protections for wolverines in the lower 48 states, where only 300 wolverines remain. The snow-dependent wolverine, which is the largest terrestrial member of the weasel family, is threatened with massive habitat loss due to global warming.
In response to the lawsuit, the Service agreed to reconsider its 2020 decision but did not commit to reversing it. The court’s decision Thursday requires the agency to return the wolverine to the protected status it held before the agency made its erroneous decision.
Earthjustice represents a broad coalition of conservation groups in the lawsuit – the Center for Biological Diversity, Conservation Northwest, Defenders of Wildlife, Friends of the Clearwater, Idaho Conservation League, Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance, Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center, Greater Yellowstone Coalition, Sierra Club and Rocky Mountain Wild.