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Decades-long effort yields protections for dwindling wolverine population

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Friday, December 1, 2023   

In a long-awaited decision being celebrated by conservation groups, the wolverine will receive greater protections across the northern Cascades and Rockies.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has announced wolverine will be listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. There are only about 300 left in the lower 48 states.

Jeff Abrams, wildlife program associate for the Idaho Conservation League, said it has taken nearly 30 years to reach this point.

"We've got a ruling that is really favorable toward setting the table to take appropriate measures going forward for the stabilization of wolverine populations," Abrams said, "and then, hopefully, an increasing trend for their rebound."

Wolverine require deep snowpack, which is affected by climate change, and Abrams said the increasing presence of recreational activity and development is also affecting the species. Opponents have argued more research needs to be done to determine the population size and future impacts of climate change on wolverine habitat.

The listing, published Thursday, opens up a 60-day public comment period on the interim rule.

Abrams called Idaho core to the current wolverine range, and pointed to work that's been done in the state to protect that habitat.

"We just need to now make the appropriate management adjustments to consider impacts of climate change and of this increased use of recreational landscapes during winter months," he observed.

He cautioned that conservation groups have a lingering concern about an exemption for incidental trapping in the rule, mainly because the magnitude of trapping's impact isn't well understood. However, he noted there are encouraging signs in the USFWS announcement that extend beyond wolverine.

"They've said, in as many words, that the science about our changing climate and the implications to wolverine - and really, other highly vulnerable native wildlife - is essentially settled," Abrams observed.


Disclosure: Idaho Conservation League contributes to our fund for reporting on Energy Policy, Environment, Public Lands/Wilderness. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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