Political Climate: USFWS Shows Weak Will on Wolverines

On February 1, 2013, the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) announced a proposal to list the North American wolverine as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). At the time, USFWS stated in a news release that “Extensive climate modeling indicates that the wolverine’s snowpack habitat will be greatly reduced and fragmented in the coming years due to climate warming, thereby threatening the species with extinction” (see Spring 2013 AWI Quarterly).

On August 12, 2014, USFWS essentially said “Eh… never mind,” withdrawing the proposal and shrugging off the conclusions of scientific organizations, independent peer reviewers, leading wildlife biologists, and the Service’s own scientists. The decision to back off appears to be a response by USFWS to pressure from officials in Wyoming, Montana and Idaho—three states where most of the 250–300 wolverines in the contiguous United States live. Rick Piltz, a former senior associate in the federal Climate Change Science Program, says the decision “appears to be another case of the administration setting politically inconvenient science aside.”

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