U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Voluntarily Dismisses Their Appeal in Wolverine Suit
It’s been a long, winding trail for wolverines, but Earthjustice recently brought them a big win on behalf of the Alliance, the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, and twenty other regional and national organizations.
Wolverines were almost pushed to extinction by trapping in the early 1900s. They are still threatened by trapping as well as low genetic diversity, winter recreation in denning areas, development, and resource extraction. But their biggest threat is global warming. Wolverines rely on snowpack in high alpine habitat to raise their young. Global warming has led to an acceleration in the loss of springtime snowpack and could further isolate wolverine populations as they become restricted to higher elevations.
In 2013, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) concluded that wolverines in the U.S. are separate from the Canadian population and therefore had numbers low enough to deserve Endangered Species protection. A Freedom of Information Act request revealed that the states of Wyoming and Montana, along with special interest groups that included snowmobile clubs, the National Petroleum Institute, the Montana Petroleum Association and others, pushed the Trump administration to infer that the U.S. population was not separate from the Canadian population, leading to a decision in 2020 to not list wolverines as endangered.
This past May, federal judge Donald Molloy agreed with Earthjustice and wildlife advocates that this decision was flawed. The judge gave the USFWS 18 months to review its decision, using the original finding that US wolverines are a separate population and qualify as threatened.
Federal attorneys appealed Judge Molloy’s decision in July, but on September 9 pulled their appeal. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service now has until November 2023 to reach a decision, based on their own conclusion in 2013 that wolverines deserve Endangered Species protection. The Alliance is grateful for this decision and the arduous work of Earthjustice. We are hopeful the USFWS will decide this rare and special animal deserves special protection.