Posts Tagged ‘listing’

Mar14

Cascadia Goes to Court to Defend Wolf Protections in California

For Immediate Release, March 14, 2017
 
Contacts:      
 
Nick Cady, Cascadia Wildlands, (541) 434-1463, nick@cascwild.org
Amaroq Weiss, Center for Biological Diversity, (707) 779-9613, aweiss@biologicaldiversity.org
Greg Loarie, Earthjustice, (415) 217-2000, gloarie@earthjustice.org
Tom Wheeler, Environmental Protection Information Center, (707) 822-7711, tom@wildcalifornia.org
Joseph Vaile, Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center, (541) 488-5789, joseph@kswild.org
 
Conservation Groups Oppose Effort to Remove Wolf Protections in California
Organizations Seek Intervention on Industry Challenge to Endangered Status
 

SAN FRANCISCO— Four conservation groups filed a motion today to intervene in a lawsuit seeking to remove California Endangered Species Act protections from wolves. The lawsuit, against the state Fish and Wildlife Commission, was brought by the Pacific Legal Foundation and wrongly alleges that wolves are ineligible for state protection. 

The intervenors — Cascadia Wildlands, the Center for Biological Diversity, Environmental Protection Information Center, and Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center — are represented by Earthjustice.

“Pacific Legal Foundation’s lawsuit is baseless,” said Amaroq Weiss, the Center’s West Coast wolf organizer. “Gray wolves were senselessly wiped out in California and deserve a chance to come back and survive here. We’re intervening to defend the interests of the vast majority of Californians who value wolves and want them to recover.”

Brought on behalf of the California Cattlemen’s Association and California Farm Bureau Federation, the lawsuit alleges that wolves are ineligible for state protection because wolves returning to the state are supposedly the wrong subspecies, which only occurred intermittently in California at the time of the decision and are doing fine in other states.

Each of these arguments has major flaws. UCLA biologist Bob Wayne found that all three currently recognized subspecies of wolves occurred in California. Also — importantly — there is no requirement that recovery efforts focus on the same subspecies, rather than just the species. The fact that wolves were only intermittently present actually highlights the need for their protection, and the California Endangered Species Act is rightly focused on the status of species within California, not other states.  

“The gray wolf is an icon of wildness in the American West, and its return to California after almost 100 years is a success story we should celebrate,” said Earthjustice attorney Greg Loarie. “Stripping wolves of protection under the California Endangered Species Act at this early stage in their recovery risks losing them again, and we’re not going to let that happen.”

The four intervening groups petitioned for endangered species protections for wolves in February 2012. After receiving two California Department of Fish and Wildlife reports, scientific peer review assessment of those reports, thousands of written comments submitted by the public and live testimony at multiple public meetings, the California Fish and Game Commission voted to protect gray wolves in June 2014.

State protection makes it illegal to kill a wolf, including in response to livestock depredations — a major issue for the livestock industry. But despite the industry’s concerns, a growing body of scientific evidence shows nonlethal deterrence measures are more effective and less expensive than killing wolves. In addition, the Department of Fish and Wildlife has been allocated federal funding that can be used for nonlethal conflict-deterrence measures and to compensate ranchers for livestock losses to wolves, which make up a very small fraction of livestock losses.

“The cattle industry has made clear that it views wolves as pests and that they filed suit to allow killing of wolves,” said Tom Wheeler, executive director at the Environmental Protection Information Center. “Wolves are a vital part of American’s wilderness and natural heritage, helping to restore balance to our ecosystems by regulating elk and deer populations. The path to restoring wolves is through protecting fragile recovering populations.”

Wolves once ranged across most of the United States, but were trapped, shot and poisoned to near extirpation largely on behalf of the livestock industry. Before wolves began to return to California in late 2011 — when a single wolf from Oregon known as wolf OR-7 ventured south — it had been almost 90 years since a wild wolf was seen in the state. Before OR-7 the last known wild wolf in California, killed by a trapper in Lassen County, was seen in 1924.

Since 2011 California’s first wolf family in nearly a century, the seven-member Shasta pack, was confirmed in Siskiyou County in 2015, and a pair of wolves was confirmed in Lassen County in 2016. An additional radio-collared wolf from Oregon has crossed in and out of California several times since late 2015.

 
Cascadia Wildlands educates, agitates, and inspires a movement to protect and restore Cascadia's wild ecosystems. We envision vast old-growth forests, rivers full of wild salmon, wolves howling in the backcountry, and vibrant communities sustained by the unique landscapes of the Cascadia bioregion.
Apr04

Fed’s Failure to Protect Wolverines Ruled Illegal

For Immediate Release                                        
April 4, 2015
 
Contacts:    
Nick Cady, Cascadia Wildlands, 314-482-3746, nick@cascwild.org
Matthew Bishop, Western Environmental Law Center, 406-422-9866, bishop@westernlaw.org  
Bethany Cotton, WildEarth Guardians, 406-414-7227, bcotton@wildearthguardians.org  
 
Wolverine (Guio gulo) adult on a frozen river during winter in the Rocky Mountains of Montana. Captive Animal

Wolverine (Guio gulo) adult on a frozen river during winter in the Rocky Mountains of Montana.

 
Judge Rules Feds Improperly Refused to Protect Wolverines
Orders Reconsideration of Safeguards for Species Imperiled by Climate Change
 
MISSOULA, Mont. – Today, the federal district court for Montana rejected a decision by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) to deny protections for wolverines in the contiguous U.S. The court ruled the Service improperly ignored science and violated the Endangered Species Act. A broad coalition of conservation organizations challenged the Service’s refusal to protect imperiled wolverines by listing them under the ESA.
 
“Today’s win is a victory not just for wolverine but for all species whose fate relies on the scientific integrity of the Fish and Wildlife Service,” said Bethany Cotton, wildlife program director for WildEarth Guardians. “We call on the agency to stop playing politics and start living up to its mandate to protect our country’s most imperiled species.”
 
Often called “southern polar bears,” wolverines are custom built for cold, snowy climates and depend on areas with spring snow for denning and year-round habitat. Science shows climate change may eliminate nearly two-thirds of the snowy habitat needed by wolverines in the contiguous U.S. within 75 years. This means significantly less habitat and/or worsened habitat fragmentation for the approximately 250-300 wolverines that remain in the lower 48 states.
 
The Service originally identified climate change, in conjunction with small population size, as the primary threat to wolverine existence in the contiguous U.S. Published, peer-reviewed research, the larger scientific community – including the Society for Conservation Biology – an independent scientific panel, the majority of experts who reviewed the decision, and the Service’s own biologists all verified this finding. The Service proposed listing the wolverine as a “threatened” species under the ESA in 2013. At the eleventh hour, however, the Service reversed course and chose not to protect wolverine, citing too many “uncertainties” in the scientific literature.
 
Today, the court rejected this excuse, holding the agency accountable for its decision to discount the best available science about climate impacts on wolverine. “[T]he Service’s decision against listing the wolverine as threatened under the ESA is arbitrary and capricious. No greater level of certainty is needed to see the writing on the wall for this snow-dependent species standing squarely in the path of global climate change. It has taken us twenty years to get to this point. It is the [Court’s] view that if there is one thing required of the Service under the ESA, it is to take action at the earliest possible, defensible point in time to protect against the loss of biodiversity within our reach as a nation. For the wolverine. That time is now." Opinion at page 83.
 
The court correctly noted that the ESA directs the Service to make listing decisions based on the best available science, not the best possible science. This means the agency cannot make the perfect the enemy of the good. Instead, it must use and rely on the best science available when making listing decisions, which it failed to do in this case.
 
“The court sent a clear message to the Service: don't let politics trump science,” said Matthew Bishop, a Western Environmental Law Center attorney who represented the conservation groups. “The Service cannot ignore the published literature and advice of its own biologists when making important listing decisions.”
 
Today’s ruling requires the agency to make a new final listing determination for wolverines. The ruling also restores the Service’s proposed rule to list wolverine and the wolverine’s status as a candidate species under the ESA.
 
“Cascadia Wildlands is very encouraged by the court's rejection of political game playing by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,” said Nick Cady with Cascadia Wildlands. "As with all species, wolverines deserve conservation and protections based upon sound science. This legal victory sets the stage for further reform of a deteriorating U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the installment of protections for this struggling species across the West.”
 
“We hope the Fish and Wildlife Service wastes no more time in granting wolverines Endangered Species Act protection,” said Keith Hammer, chair of Swan View Coalition. “This rare species deserves all the help it can get as we hit record-setting temperatures here in Montana.”
 
“We need to do everything we can to protect wolverines and wolverine habitat in the face of climate change and a snowballing extinction crisis," said Greg Costello, executive director of Wildlands Network. “Our actions should be rooted in precaution and the best available science—not political nitpicking.”
 
“With only 300 wolverine spread across the Western U.S., it is refreshing to see the court appreciates the precarious state of wolverine populations and confirm the findings of the Fish and Wildlife Service's own biologists that the species merits ESA protection,” said ecologist George Wuerthner.
 
“Wolverines deserve protection, not political shenanigans,” said Arlene Montgomery of Friends of the Wild Swan. “The Fish and Wildlife Service must now do its job to protect and recover this imperiled animal.”
 
“It is reassuring to know that our court system is doing its job, even while other branches of government flounder,” said Larry Campbell of Friends of the Bitterroot. “The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is apparently willing to illegally sacrifice an awesome species and good science while ineptly playing politics. Go wolverines!”
 
A copy of the decision is available here.
 
A copy of the original complaint is available here.
 
Matthew Bishop and John Mellgren of the Western Environmental Law Center and Sarah McMillan of WildEarth Guardians represented WildEarth Guardians, Cascadia Wildlands, Alliance for the Wild Rockies, Cottonwood Environmental Law Center, Footloose Montana, Friends of the Bitterroot, Friends of the Wild Swan, George Wuerthner, Helena Hunters and Anglers Association, Kootenai Environmental Alliance, Native Ecosystem Council, Oregon Wild, and the Swan View Coalition on the case.
 
Additional quotes from the decision:
 
“Why did the Service make the decision [to not list the wolverine]?…Based on the record, the Court suspects that a possible answer to this question can be found in the immense political pressure that was brought to bear on this issue, particularly by a handful of western states.” Opinion at page 56.
 
“This strikes the Court as the essence of arbitrary and capricious decision making.” Opinion at page 61 (discussing climate change claim).
 
“[A]s Plaintiffs’ counsel rightly pointed out … the Service’s stance here borders on the absurd – if evidence shows that wolverines need snow for denning purposes, and the best available science projects a loss of snow as a result of climate where and when wolverines den, then what sense does it make to deny that climate change is a threat to the wolverine simply because research has yet to prove exactly why wolverines need snow for denning?” Opinion at page 67 (discussing climate change claim).
 
“If ever there was a species for which conservation depends on foregoing absolute certainty, it is the wolverine.” Opinion at page 68 (discussing why we don’t need absolute certainty for why wolverine need deep persistent snow).
 
Background:
 
Wolverine number just 250-300 individuals in the contiguous U.S. and are dependent on high elevation habitat with deep winter snows. Imperiled by climate change, habitat loss and trapping, wolverine were first petitioned for ESA protections in 2000. The Service found the petition did not contain adequate information to justify a listing. A federal court overturned that decision in 2006. The Service then issued a negative 12-month finding in 2008, which was challenged in court resulting in a settlement that led to a new finding that wolverine should be protected under the ESA, but that other priorities precluded the listing at that time. A landmark settlement with WildEarth Guardians, which resolves the backlog of imperiled species awaiting protections, then guaranteed a new finding for wolverine. In February 2013, the Service proposed listing the wolverine as “threatened” under the ESA. In August 2014, however, the Service reversed course and issued a decision not to list the species, contradicting its own expert scientists’ recommendations. Today’s ruling is in response to the organizations’ legal challenge to that decision.
 
Image courtesy of © David J. Cox/NaturalExposures.com (high-res version here)
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