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Conservationists Sue Feds For Withholding Protection For Wolverines

Gerald and Buff Corsi, California Academy of Sciences. (USFS)

Conservation groups have filed a lawsuit challenging the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s decision to withhold Endangered Species Act protection from wolverines in the lower 48 states. That’s where no more than 300 of the animals are thought to remain. 

The law firm Earthjustice represents over a dozen groups that assert wolverines face localized extinction as a result of climate change, habitat fragmentation and low genetic diversity. 

"We’re continuing to try and give the wolverine a fighting chance in asking that the Fish and Wildlife Service is held to the standards of the Endangered Species Act when it’s affecting what the risk and threat to the wolverine species is," Earthjustice Attorney Amanda Galvan says.

The Fish and Wildlife Service says the number of wolverines is expanding, not contracting. Agency scientists predict enough snow will persist at high elevations for wolverines to den in mountain snowfields each spring despite warming temperatures.

The lawsuit filed Monday in Missoula District Court contends climate change is diminishing the mountain snowpack wolverines need for their primary habitat. 

Copyright 2020 Montana Public Radio. To see more, visit Montana Public Radio.

Edward O'Brien is Montana Public Radio's Associate News Director.