6HWbNHN-show-poster2x3-c7tgE2Y.png

Artbound

Start watching
MJ250sC-show-poster2x3-Bflky7i.png

Tending Nature

Start watching
Southland Sessions

Southland Sessions

Start watching
HvlSxHY-show-poster2x3-4ik43uV.png

Earth Focus

Start watching
5LQmQJY-show-poster2x3-MRWBpAK.jpg

Reporter Roundup

Start watching
City Rising

City Rising

Start watching
Lost LA

Lost LA

Start watching
Member
Your donation supports our high-quality, inspiring and commercial-free programming.
Support Icon
Learn about the many ways to support KCET.
Support Icon
Contact our Leadership, Advancement, Membership and Special Events teams.

Groups Sue Feds Over Failure to Protect Wolverines

Support Provided By
wolverine-10-13-14-thumb-600x401-82211
Wolverine | Photo: Josh More/Flickr/Creative Commons License

Eight conservation groups today filed suit in Federal court to force the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to reconsider its recent decision not to list the American wolverine as a Threatened species under the U.S. Endangered Species Act.

The wolverine (Gulo gulo), a rare and fierce predator in the weasel family faces an uncertain future as a warming planet reduces the deep mountain snowpacks the animal requires to dig its breeding dens. USFWS scientists studying the wolverine's prospects for survival unanimously agreed the carnivore merited protection as a Threatened species. The agency itself proposed listing the wolverine in February 2013.

But in May of this year, USFWS Regional Director Noreen Walsh quietly ordered her staff to drop work on listing the wolverine, citing "uncertainty" in climate change modeling. USFWS Director Dan Ashe made that order official in August with a formal withdrawal of the listing proposal. This week's lawsuit seeks to rescind that order and restart the listing process.

The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Missoula, Montana, charges that USFWS violated the Endangered Species Act by disregarding the best available science on the wolverine, and asks the court to set aside the decision to drop the listing process.

If the wolverine is listed, protection would apply to the population in the lower 48 states, including a small confirmed population in California's Sierra Nevada.

"The wolverine is a famously tough creature that doesn't back down from anything, but even the wolverine can't overcome a changing climate by itself," said Earthjustice attorney Adrienne Maxwell. "To survive, the wolverine needs the protections that only the Endangered Species Act can provide."

Earthjustice is representing eight conservation groups bringing the lawsuit against USFWS and the Department of the Interior. The plaintiffs are the 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 Rocky Mountain Wild.

The fewer than 300 wolverines remaining in the lower 48 states rely on deep, persistent snowpack lasting until at least May for the females to hollow out dens. Though Walsh's May memo correctly pointed out that current climate models don't allow precise predictions of future snowpack at individual denning locations, scientists are unanimous in agreeing that a warming climate means fewer areas of persistent snow overall.

That not only limits breeding habitat available to wolverines, but it raises the risk of fragmentation of the wolverine gene pool as populations that were once connected by swaths of suitable winter breeding habitat find themselves isolated.

"The best available science shows climate change will significantly reduce available wolverine habitat over the next century, and imperil the species," said Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance's Siva Sundaresan. "As an agency responsible for protecting our wildlife, FWS should not ignore science and should make their decisions based on facts and data."

Support Provided By
Read More
A patient wearing an oxygen mask is wheeled inside a COVID-19 hospital for treatment, amidst the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Ahmedabad, India, April 21, 2021.

Beg, Borrow, Steal': The Fight for Oxygen Among New Delhi's Hospitals

Medical staff are facing life-or-death scrambles to get scarce oxygen supplies as COVID-19 cases surge.
A woman in a black t-shirt gets a vaccine administered on her right arm by a woman in dark blue scrubs.

Back For Seconds? Tens of Thousands in L.A. County Overdue for Second COVID Shot

Nearly 278,000 people in L.A. County may be overdue for their second dose, according to county figures released today.
Los Angeles Armenian Community Marks 106th Anniversary Of  Armenian Genocide

Biden Recognizes Armenian Genocide; Hundreds Gather in Southland

Hundreds gathered to mark the 106th anniversary of the beginning of the mass killing of Armenians by Turkish forces during World War I, and to celebrate President Joe Biden's formal recognition of the atrocities as a genocide.