Go Blue, the wandering wolverine of the Sierra Nevada, has touched off the controversy I predicted on Saturday.
The San Jose Mercury News reports that environmental activists want the wolverine protected under the federal Endangered Species Act. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says that isn’t necessary as there are plenty of wolverines in Canada. The result:
But because wolverine populations retain strong connections to larger ones in Canada and Alaska, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said Monday the species could survive even if it disappeared entirely from the contiguous United States. Environmental groups vowed to challenge the decision in court.
“According to ESA (Endangered Species Act) guidelines, the U.S. population is not significant to the viability of the subspecies as a whole,” said Fish and Wildlife spokeswoman Diane Katzenberger, noting a 1997 policy requiring the agency to consider more than emerging threats or low numbers….
Jamie Rappaport Clark, a former Fish and Wildlife Service director during the Clinton years, said the Fish and Wildlife Service’s decision represented a sharp reversal from prior practice.
Clark, who now works for Defenders of Wildlife, pointed out that other species have been protected in the contiguous United States despite still-thriving populations in Canada and Alaska. Those include gray wolves, grizzly bears, woodland caribou, Canada lynx and bald eagles, she said.
“This country never shied away from protecting what’s in its borders,” Clark said. “This administration is punting that responsibility to countries north and south of us.”
A number of environmental groups planned a legal challenge.
“We don’t live in Canada. We live in Washington and Montana and Idaho, and it’s important that we have wolverines here,” said Joe Scott with the group Conservation Northwest.
The activists will demand protected status and designation of “critical habitat” across a wide swath of the Sierra, instantly encumbering land owners in the area so designated in a variety of difficult-to-manage permits, causing at least delay and often the collapse of long planned projects.