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Conservation groups file new suit over wolverine protections

Posted at 1:07 PM, Dec 15, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-16 14:14:42-05

MISSOULA — There is another legal salvo in the fight over protections for the wolverine in the Northern Rockies, with conservation organizations filing a federal lawsuit challenging the latest decision to not treat the rare mammals as "threatened."

Some scientists believe there are fewer than 300 wolverines left and are being hurt genetically because they are no longer able to migrate across their historic range.

Some of that is blamed on road building and other winter activities, but also on climate change impacting the high country snow wolverines need.

U.S. District Court Judge Dana Christensen sided with the conservation groups four years ago, saying the states should have done a more scientific analysis to back up arguments the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) should have placed wolverines on the Endangered Species List in 2013.

Now, groups including Alliance for the Wild Rockies and WildEarth Guardians are filing a new federal suit, attempting to block the most recent decision by USFWS formally withdrawing that proposal to list the wolverine.

In the "species status assessment" approved in October, USFWS said it didn't consider climate change and a loss of a snowpack, and a threat to wolverines.

The agency also dismissed arguments that the animals' habitat was limited, arguing wolverines were crossing back and forth from Canada. But the new suit says those claims aren't based on science.