Judge orders US to decide if wolverines need protection

This Feb. 27, 2016, file photo provided by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, from a remote camera tuned by biologist Chris Stermer, shows a mountain wolverine in the Tahoe National Forest near Truckee, in California, a rare sighting of the predator.  in the state.  A federal judge has given US wildlife officials 18 months to decide whether wolverines should be protected under the Endangered Species Act.  (Chris Stermer/California Department of Fish and Wildlife via AP, File)

This Feb. 27, 2016, file photo provided by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, from a remote camera tuned by biologist Chris Stermer, shows a mountain wolverine in the Tahoe National Forest near Truckee, in California, a rare sighting of the predator. in the state. A federal judge has given US wildlife officials 18 months to decide whether wolverines should be protected under the Endangered Species Act. (Chris Stermer/California Department of Fish and Wildlife via AP, File)

PA

A federal judge has given US wildlife officials 18 months to decide whether wolverines should be protected under the Endangered Species Act, after years of dispute over the risk that climate change and other threats pose to rare and elusive predators.

U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy’s order comes after environmentalists challenged a 2020 decision under the Trump administration to suspend animal welfare in the lower 48 states, where no more than 300 of the animals are believed to remain.

Conservationists have argued that wolverines face localized extinction due to climate change, habitat fragmentation and low genetic diversity. Warming temperatures are expected to decrease the mountain snowpack that wolverines rely on to dig dens to give birth to and raise their young.

The Fish and Wildlife Service received a petition to protect wolverines in 2000 and first proposed protections in 2010. It later sought to withdraw that proposal, but was blocked by a federal judge who said dependent animals snow were “right on the climate track”. change.”

The 2020 rejection of protections under former President Donald Trump was based on research suggesting the prevalence of animals was increasing, not contracting. Officials at the time predicted that enough snow would persist at high elevations for wolverines to take shelter in mountain snowfields each spring despite warming temperatures.

In February, government lawyers told Molloy that wildlife officials wanted to re-evaluate the 2020 ruling and asked that it remain in effect while that review was completed. But the judge rejected this request and reversed the decision.

This means that a 2013 decision by authorities that made wolverines eligible for potential protections is back in effect.

“We hope this time it’s the charm and the Fish and Wildlife Service will follow the directions of the courts to rely on the best climate science available to make the right decision to protect wolverines in the lower 48 states,” said said Matthew Bishop, a lawyer. with the Western Environmental Law Center.

Wolverines, also known as “mountain devils”, were wiped out in most of the United States in the early 1900s as a result of unregulated trapping and poisoning campaigns.

Wildlife officials previously estimated that 250 to 300 wolverines survive in remote areas of Montana, Wyoming, Idaho and Washington state. Animals from recent years have also been documented in California, Utah, Colorado, and Oregon.

The animals need huge swaths of wild land to survive, with home ranges for adult male wolverines spanning up to 610 square miles (1,580 square kilometers), according to a study in central Idaho.

Fish and Wildlife officials did not immediately respond to Molloy’s order.

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