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PNS Daily Newscast - November 15, 2018 


Lawyer Michael Avenatti arrested on a domestic violence charge. Also on the Thursday rundown: more testimony on the anti-protest bill; plus we will take you to the Dakotas to celebrate American Education Week.

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Court Decision Means Wolverines Are Still Eligible for Federal Protection

The feds are condemning a court decision that could force them to reconsider their decision not to list the wolverine as an endangered species. (Conservation Northwest Citizen Wildlife Monitoring Project)
The feds are condemning a court decision that could force them to reconsider their decision not to list the wolverine as an endangered species. (Conservation Northwest Citizen Wildlife Monitoring Project)
April 14, 2016

BILLINGS, Mont. - The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is denying politics played a role when it went against the recommendations of its own scientists and decided not to grant endangered species status to the wolverine.

Last week a judge ruled the agency has to reconsider the recommendations of its own experts, who said there are only about 300 of the animals left, and their habitat is shrinking because of climate change.

Dave Werntz is the science and conservation director for Conservation Northwest, one of several groups that sued to overturn the agency's decision.

"The Fish and Wildlife Service is required to use scientific information to inform their decision making," he said. "What the court determined here was they didn't do that. They didn't listen to their scientists."

The wolverine is a large weasel whose range in Montana is centered on Glacier National Park but is also found in Wyoming, Idaho and Washington. Trapping had been allowed in Montana until 2012, when a judge halted it while the endangered-species process played out. The state of Montana has said that climate change is not an imminent threat, and it wants to bring trapping season back.

Tim Preso, managing attorney with the Northern Rockies office of the conservation advocacy law firm, Earthjustice, the firm that took the lead in this case, said the public can't always rely on the government to protect the environment.

"It's important for the public to really play a watchdog role with these agencies, especially when there's strong political forces at play," he stressed.

The wolverine needs deep snow in order to build its dens and raise its young.

Carolyn Byrd, executive director of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, one of the co-plantiffs, said the wolverine simply can't be allowed to die out in the lower 48 states.

"They're an incredibly rare and elusive and wild creature," she said. "I mean, they symbolize the wildness of the Northern Rockies as well as any other species we've got out there."

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has the option to appeal the case to the Ninth Circuit. Earthjustice said they're ready to continue defending the wolverine.

The court's full ruling can be downloaded here.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - MT