Court Restores Wolverine Protections While Agency Reconsiders Endangered Species Decision
Conservation Northwest / May 27, 2022 / Wolverine
For Immediate Release: Friday, May 27, 2022
Missoula, MT – The wolverine has regained candidate species status under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) following a Montana District Court decision late Thursday. The Court agreed with conservation groups that the wolverine is entitled to some ESA protections while the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) reconsiders over the next 18 months its 2020 decision to deny all ESA protections for the wolverine.
“Wolverines are subject to considerable threats from a warming climate, shrinking snowpack, and increasingly fragmented habitat,” said Dave Werntz, science and conservation director at Conservation Northwest. “Endangered Species Act protections help focus resources and actions to ensure wolverines have a future in the west’s wild landscapes.”
As a candidate species, the wolverine will be afforded certain protections under the Endangered Species Act. Federal agencies must consult with FWS on any action that might jeopardize a candidate species. Restoration of candidate species status also ensures that impacts to wolverines, and their habitat, are considered in current and upcoming planning decisions that could impact critical habitat for the species.
“The wolverine deserves protection under the Endangered Species Act, and this is a step toward ensuring the species does not suffer additional harm before that happens,” said Amanda Galvan, associate attorney with Earthjustice’s Northern Rockies office. “FWS previously ignored key studies that illustrate the threats the wolverine continues to face due to global warming. By reviewing a more complete picture of the species’ circumstances, we are hopeful that the agency will identify the need for increased protections.”
Conservation groups filed suit in December 2020 challenging the FWS decision to withhold ESA protections from wolverines in the lower 48 states, where no more than 300 wolverines remain. The snow-dependent wolverine, which is the largest terrestrial member of the weasel family, is threatened with massive habitat losses due to global warming. In response to the lawsuit, FWS has agreed to reexamine its 2020 decision but did not commit to setting aside that decision to allow its new analysis to be done on a clean slate. The Court’s decision today requires the agency to return the wolverine to the status it held before the agency made its flawed decision.
“The wolverine is a test case. How do we protect snow-dependent species in the era of climate change?” asked Joseph Vaile from the conservation group KS Wild in southern Oregon. “One thing is certain, without federal protections, this majestic species will be another climate change casualty.”
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.
Perry Wheeler, Earthjustice, 202-792-6211, firstname.lastname@example.org
Dave Werntz, Conservation Northwest, 360-319-9949, email@example.com