US Fish and Wildlife Service lists wolves as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act – Oregon Capital Chronicle

US Fish and Wildlife Service lists wolves as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act – Oregon Capital Chronicle

After more than two decades of petitions by wildlife conservation groups, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has listed wolves as an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act.

The decision represents a win for conservation groups, which have petitioned for federal listing since 1995 and fought six rounds of successful lawsuits to secure federal protection.

According to the Endangered Species Act, an “endangered species” is a species that is likely to become an endangered species in the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of its range. Whereas, “endangered species” are species that are at risk of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of their range.

Under the new protections, Fish and Wildlife must prepare a wolverine recovery plan, identify critical habitat protected in the future, and possibly plan to reintroduce the species to Colorado.

“Biologists estimate that more than 40% of suitable wolverine habitat in Idaho will be lost by 2060 if we fail to act,” Jeff Abrams, wildlife program assistant for the Idaho Conservation League, said in a news release Wednesday. “This decision allows us to move forward with recovery measures to prevent such a significant loss of wolverine habitat and restore wolverine populations.”

The decision comes after decades of petitions and lawsuits

A petition was first filed to list the wolverine under the Endangered Species Act in 1995, but the Fish and Wildlife Service determined that the petition and the information in its records lacked evidence to suggest that listing the wolverine as threatened or endangered on the Lower 48 list might be Justified.

Then in 2014, Fish and Wildlife issued a proposal to list the wolverine and then withdrew it.

Western conservation groups then sued Fish and Wildlife in the U.S. District Court for the District of Montana to challenge the agency’s decision to withdraw the proposal. In 2020, the groups went to court to force the federal agency to complete an Endangered Species Act final determination listing wolverines in the Lower 48 region.

As WyoFile reported, Fish and Wildlife published a 100-page “species status assessment” on the North American wolverine in September, which reviewed the decision federal wildlife managers had to make by the end of November — the deadline set in the federal court order.

Wolverine is in the lower 48

Wolverines are medium-sized carnivores that live in high-elevation habitats. These species depend on deep snow masses to raise their young, and are also adapted to digging, climbing, and traveling long distances during the winter.

Wolverine populations are naturally small in high-altitude alpine habitats. However, Fish and Wildlife magazine predicts that human disturbance and the major threat of climate change affecting spring snows will lead to further shrinkage and fragmentation of their habitat.

“The science is clear: snow-dependent species like wolverines face an increasingly uncertain future in a warming climate,” Michael Saul, director of the Defenders of Wildlife Rockies and Plains program, said in the news release. “The protections that come with Endangered Species Act listing increase the chance that our children will continue to share the mountains with these magnificent and elusive carnivores.”

Wolverines were once found across the northern tier of the United States, extending from states such as Montana and Idaho to areas as far south as New Mexico in the Rocky Mountains and southern California in the Sierra Nevada mountain range.

But after more than a century of unregulated hunting and habitat degradation, wolverines in the Lower 48 are only found in small populations in Idaho, Montana, Washington, Wyoming and northeastern Oregon.

There is limited population data on wolverines, but in 2014, the Fish and Wildlife Foundation estimated their population at 250 to 300 in the Lower 48. While the most recent assessment of the species’ status does not include an updated population estimate, research indicates that the species is widespread and moving across state borders.

Conservationists from across the West expressed gratitude for the decision, including Andrea Zaccardi, legal director for carnivore conservation at the Center for Biological Diversity.

“I’m thrilled that the Fish and Wildlife Service finally followed the science and gave wolverines the federal protection they need to survive and recover,” she said in the news release. “Like many other species, wolverines have waited a long time to gain federal protection, but I am thrilled that they are finally on the road to recovery.”

The Idaho Capital Sun and Oregon Capital Chronicle are part of the State Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. The Idaho Capital Sun maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Christina Lords with questions: (email protected). Follow the Idaho Capital Sun on Facebook and Twitter.

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