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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Wolverine Considered for Protection

North Cascades provides important habitat for rare carnivore

In a breakthrough in the effort to save one of the rarest wild animals in the lower forty-eight states, a federal judge has overturned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's refusal to consider new legal protections for the wolverine.

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Bellingham, WA Oct 02, 2006

In a breakthrough in the effort to save one of the rarest wild animals in the lower forty-eight states, a federal judge has overturned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s refusal to consider new legal protections for the wolverine. The decision, issued last Friday, September 29, sided with four conservation groups that challenged the agency’s rejection of a petition to list the wolverine under the Endangered Species Act.

“This ruling means that we now have a chance to keep the wolverine from sliding into extinction,” added Joe Scott of the Conservation Northwest, a plaintiff in the lawsuit. “The Endangered Species Act is the best tool we have to ensure that the wolverine does not become a creature of myth and legend.”

The decision by the U.S. District Court for Montana requires that the Fish and Wildlife Service conduct a full status review of the wolverine and issue a final determination whether the species should be listed as threatened or endangered. Listing under the Endangered Species Act would trigger new legal protections.

In its ruling, the court found that the Service wrongly rejected scientific information regarding the wolverine that “shows a dramatic loss in range, the tangible decrease in population with the commensurate threat of genetic isolation of subpopulations, and the threat posed by human encroachment on wolverines.”

“This court ruling gives the wolverine a fighting chance,” said Earthjustice attorney Tim Preso, who represented the groups in the lawsuit. “Everything we know about the wolverine tells us that this species is under siege from trapping in Montana and habitat disruption throughout its entire range. The court’s decision means that the government can no longer ignore the threats.”

The largest terrestrial member of the weasel family, the wolverine is a bear cub-sized forest mammal that persists in small numbers in the last remaining big wilderness areas of the lower forty-eight states. The powerful animal once ranged across the northernmost states from Maine to Washington, and south into the Adirondacks of New York, the Rocky Mountains as far south as Arizona and New Mexico, and the Sierra Nevada, Cascade, and Siskiyou Mountains as far south as California.

Today the wolverine is known to exist only in the North Cascades of Washington and the Rocky Mountains of Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming. Last winter, the U.S. Forest Service trapped a female dubbed “Melanie” in the North Cascades– the first ever captured and fitted with a radio collar in the Pacific Northwest. There have been several confirmed sightings over the past ten years in the mountains above the Methow Valley, in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, and in other areas above Leavenworth.

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