other activities if species is listed as threatened
DENVER--The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) announced today, in
response to a court-ordered deadline, that it is seeking information from
the scientific community and the public on a proposal to protect the North
American wolverine as a threatened species under the Endangered Species
Act (ESA). The Service is also seeking comment on two proposed special
rules designed to facilitate management and recovery of the species should
it receive protection.
An estimated 250 to 300 wolverines now occur in the lower 48 states, where
the species has rebounded after broad-scale predator trapping and
poisoning programs led to its near extinction in the early 1900s. This was
in part due to the states protecting the species from unregulated
Extensive climate modeling indicates that the wolverine’s snowpack habitat
will be greatly reduced and fragmented in the coming years due to climate
warming, thereby threatening the species with extinction. Wolverines are
dependent on areas in high mountains, near the tree-line, where conditions
are cold year-round and snow cover persists well into the month of May.
The Service does not consider most activities occurring within the high
elevation habitat of the wolverine, including snowmobiling and backcountry
skiing, and land management activities like timber harvesting and
infrastructure development, to constitute significant threats to the
wolverine. As a result, the Service is proposing a special rule under
Section 4(d) of the ESA that, should the species be listed, would allow
these types of activities to continue.
“This proposal would give us the flexibility to tailor the protections for
the wolverine provided by the ESA to only those things that are
necessary,” said Noreen Walsh, Director of the Service’s Mountain-Prairie
Region. “Scientific evidence suggests that a warming climate will greatly
reduce the wolverine’s snowpack habitat. We look forward to hearing from
our state and local partners and members of the public and scientific
community on these proposals as we work to ensure the continued recovery
of the species.”
Under the proposed 4(d) rule, take of wolverines associated with hunting
and trapping would be prohibited if the species is listed. The Service is
seeking input on the appropriateness of prohibiting incidental take of
wolverine in the course of legal trapping activities directed at other
In support of ongoing federal and state agencies to protect the wolverine
from extinction, the Service is simultaneously proposing a special rule
under Section 10(j) of the ESA to facilitate potential reintroduction of
the species its historical range in Colorado. The reintroduction effort,
which is still under consideration, would be led by the Colorado
Department of Parks and Wildlife.
Currently, wolverines occur within the North Cascades Range in Washington
and the Northern Rockies of Montana, Idaho, Wyoming and a small portion of
Oregon (Wallowa Range). Populations once existed in the Sierra Nevada of
California and the southern Rocky Mountains in the states of Colorado,
Wyoming, and New Mexico. Currently, one individual male wolverine is known
to inhabit the Sierra Nevada and one male wolverine resides in the
southern Rocky Mountains. Both are recent migrants to these areas.
Most wolverine habitat in the contiguous U.S. – more than 90 percent – is
located on federally-owned land, with the remainder being state, private
or tribally owned.
If the proposed listing rule is finalized, the Service will add the
wolverine to the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife. The
listing would protect the wolverine as a threatened species in the
contiguous (or lower 48) states as a distinct population segment (DPS)
under the ESA. A DPS is a portion of a vertebrate species that is
geographically discrete from the rest of its kind and also is significant
to its survival.
The Service committed to publishing the proposed listing for the North
American wolverine in Fiscal Year 2013 as part of the Service’s efforts to
implement a court-approved work plan that resolves a series of lawsuits
concerning the agency’s ESA listing duties. The intent of the agreement is
to significantly reduce litigation and allow the agency to focus its
resources on the species most in need of the ESA's protections.
The Service will open a 90-day comment period beginning February 4, 2013,
to allow the public and stakeholders an opportunity to provide information
or comments regarding the proposed listing and 4(d) rule and the proposed
10(j) rule. A draft Recovery Outline will also be available for comments.
During that time, the agency will also seek peer review of the proposed
listing and proposed rules from the scientific community. Comments will be
accepted until May 6, 2013.
Last year, the President directed that any future designations of critical
habitat carefully consider all public comments on relevant science and
economic impact, including those that suggest methods for minimizing
regulatory burdens. If the listing is finalized, any potential critical
habitat designation will include a full analysis of economic impact,
including impact on jobs, and will strive, to the extent permitted by law,
to avoid unnecessary burdens and costs on states, tribes, localities and
the private sector.
At this time, the Service finds that critical habitat is not determinable,
as the agency needs additional time to assess the potential impact of a
critical habitat designation and to identify specific areas that may be
appropriate for critical habitat designation. The Service seeks comments
on the reasons we should or should not designate critical habitat for the
wolverine, and what specific areas might be considered for designation.
For more information about wolverine conservation, copies of the
proposals, and details on public meetings and hearings, visit the
Service’s web site at
the Federal Register notices will also be available online or by
contacting the Montana Field Office at 406-449-5225.
The Endangered Species Act provides an important safety net for America’s
native fish, wildlife, and plants. This landmark conservation law has
prevented the extinction of hundreds of imperiled species across the
nation and promoted the recovery of many others. The Service is working to
actively engage conservation partners and the public in the search for
improved and innovative ways to conserve and recover imperiled species. To
learn more about the Endangered Species Program, visit