The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today a proposal to list the wolverine as threatened under the Endangered Species Act because of climate change.
“This proposal would give us the flexibility to tailor the protections for the wolverine provided by the ESA to only those things that are necessary,” said Noreen Walsh, director of the Service’s Mountain-Prairie Region. “Scientific evidence suggests that a warming climate will greatly reduce the wolverine’s snowpack habitat. We look forward to hearing from our state and local partners and members of the public and scientific community on these proposals as we work to ensure the continued recovery of the species.”
An estimated 250 to 300 wolverines now occur in the lower 48 states, Fish and Wildlife said, where the species has rebounded after broad-scale predator trapping and poisoning programs led to its near extinction in the early 1900s. They’re found within the North Cascades Range in Washington and the Northern Rockies of Montana, Idaho, Wyoming and a small portion of Oregon (Wallowa Range). The wolverine is plentiful in Alaska, most of Canada, Russia, and Scandinavia.
Ninety percent of its habitat is estimated by the government to be on federally owned land. The powerful weasel, the size of a small bear, can killed animals as large as moose and elk.
A 90-day comment period will open on the proposed listing Monday.
“Last year, the President directed that any future designations of critical habitat carefully consider all public comments on relevant science and economic impact, including those that suggest methods for minimizing regulatory burdens,” Fish and Wildlife said in its announcement. “If the listing is finalized, any potential critical habitat designation will include a full analysis of economic impact, including impact on jobs, and will strive, to the extent permitted by law, to avoid unnecessary burdens and costs on states, tribes, localities and the private sector.”
House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (R-Wash.) noted that the wolverine was one of hundreds of species included in a 2011 settlement agreement between the Interior Department and litigious environmental organizations.
“This is the latest in the continuing push of listings that the Fish &Wildlife Service is rolling out – not based upon sound science or any economic analyses – but as a result of arbitrary deadlines it created for itself behind closed-doors in settlement with litigious environmental groups that have an agenda to block energy and economic activities,” Hastings said.