North American Wolverine
On February 4, 2013, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) proposed to list the North American wolverine as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The Service points to climate change as the sole justification for listing the wolverine as endangered. Based on limited habitat data and climate modeling, the Service concluded that the species is likely to become endangered within the foreseeable future due to increasing global temperatures, which, in turn, reduces the amount of available habitat.
Idaho has a vested interest in wolverine conservation and has been proactively involved in research and conservation efforts in the northern Rocky Mountains. With that said, the state of Idaho does not support the proposal to list the wolverine as threatened for a number of reasons. Primarily, the Service is incorrect in their analysis that the North American subspecies is a distinct population. This distinction is important because, without this classification, the wolverine does not qualify a species eligible to be listed under the ESA.
In addition, from a policy and statutory standpoint, using climate change as a catalyst to list a species goes beyond the scope of the ESA, which was enacted by congress to deal with local, tangible threats; not threats that transcend international boundaries and that require a concerted global effort in order to combat.
Finally, if the species is ultimately listed, the state of Idaho wants to ensure that certain land-use activities are exempted from liability under the ESA. The Service acknowledges that climate change is the sole threat facing the wolverine and that most human-related activities do not have an appreciable impact on the species. Exemptions for these land-based activities are vital because they do not pose a threat to the wolverine and many Idahoans depend on them for their livelihood.
On May 6, 2013, the state, through the Governor’s Office of Species Conservation, submitted comments in response to the Service’s proposal to list the wolverine as threatened. A decision by the Service is slated for early 2014.