A response from our Executive Director
In May of this year, the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) issued a Proposed Rule to list the wolverine as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. The Rule was posted in the Federal Register and offered for public comment. The Service considered climate change as the primary threat to wolverine population persistence, along with contributing factors such as incidental trapping, small population size, and disturbance from winter recreation. Wolverines are snow-dependent animals that appear to require deep snow for successful denning.
Basing the decision to list the wolverine on evidence that future climate conditions will adversely impact wolverine habitat, rather than as a response to current, measurable population threats, represents a significant paradigm shift in the listing process. But, rather than stimulating a healthy debate about listing an animal on the basis of future concerns, the western States that support current wolverine populations attacked the science, and the scientists, that authored several of the papers influential in the USFWS decision to propose listing. The opposition was led by two former wolverine researchers that were also peer-reviewers of the proposed rule. No new data was introduced to support their opposition, only opinion and speculation that served to introduce uncertainty as to the legitimacy of the scientific papers. This led to the USFWS Regional Director of the Mountain-Prairie Region ordering that the rule to list be reversed. The internal memo directing the reversal was leaked to the press, which stimulated responses from science organizations and individual scientists. The Regional Director’s order to reverse the listing decision was endorsed by the USFWS Director today.
The Wolverine Foundation has never supported or opposed listing the wolverine. We have maintained this position because we believe it is important for our organization to be a voice of objectivity rather than one of advocacy. This has allowed us to provide input on both sides of the issue to promote decisions based on science rather than opinion and speculation driven by personal interests and politics. The States, and the biologists aiding them, have chosen to employ an “end justifies the means” approach to avoiding wolverine listing. As a result, science has suffered and most certainly so will the wolverine.